Cassini- Huygens Space Probe Orbiting Saturn Now Retired (Download PDF)

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The Cassini space probe was deliberately disposed of via a controlled fall into Saturn’s atmosphere on September 15, 2017, ending its nearly two-decade-long mission. Method of disposal chosen to prevent biological contamination of Saturn’s moons now thought to offer potentially habitable environments.

Image of Cassini 10 years at Saturn By The Numbers

Image of Cassini 10 Years at Saturn By The Numbers

Image of Cassini 10 years at Saturn By The Numbers

Cassini Timeline and Facts

  • Collaboration between the United States’ NASA, the European Space Agency (“ESA”), and the Italian Space Agency (“ASI”)

  • Probe to study Saturn and its system, including its rings and natural satellites.

  • Flagship-class robotic spacecraft comprised both NASA’s Cassini probe, and ESA’s Huygens lander module to be landed on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

  • Fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter its orbit

  • Craft named after astronomers Giovanni Cassini and Christiaan Huygens.

  • Launched aboard a Titan IVB/Centaur on 15th October 1997

  • Active in space for nearly 20 years, with 13 years orbiting Saturn

  • Studied planet and its system since 1st July 2004.

  • Original mission planned for four years, from June 2004 to May 2008 was extended for another two years until September 2010, branded the Cassini Equinox Mission

  • Subsequently the mission was extended a second and final time with the Cassini Solstice Mission, lasting another seven years until 15th September 2017

  • Mission ended on 15th September 2017, when Cassini flew into Saturn’s upper atmosphere and burned up at a very high temperature

The Huygens Module

  • The Huygens module traveled with Cassini until its separation from the probe on 25 December 2004.

  • Huygens successfully returned data to Earth for around 90 minutes, using the orbiter as a relay.

  • First landing ever accomplished in the outer Solar System and the first landing on a moon other than our own.

Mission of Firsts

  • Cassini-Huygens described by NASA’s Planetary Science Division Director as a “mission of firsts”

  • Revolutionized human understanding of the Saturn system, including its moons and rings, and possibility of life might in the Solar System.

- Published/Last Modified on: September 27, 2017

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