NASA’s Cassini spacecraft

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Topics Covered:

  1. Awareness in space.

 

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: About Cassini Mission and its accomplishments.
  • For Mains: Significance and key objectives of the mission.

 

Context: Data from NASA’s Cassini-Huygens spacecraft reveal new information about the lakes on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.

  • The small liquid lakes in Titan’s northern hemisphere are more than 100 meters deep, perched atop plateaus and filled with methane. They also appear to be seasonal. And the bodies of liquid on one side of the northern hemisphere are completely different than those on the other side.

 

About Cassini Mission:

Launched in 1997, the Cassini mission — a cooperation between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency — has sent back thousands of stunning images and made numerous discoveries about the ringed planet and its moons.

  • The spacecraft was launched on October 15, 1997. This was the first landing ever accomplished in the outer Solar System.
  • Cassini–Huygens is an unmanned spacecraft sent to the planet Saturn.
  • Cassini is the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter orbit.
  • Its design includes a Saturn orbiter and a lander for the moon Titan. The lander, called Huygens, landed on Titan in 2005.

 

Objectives of the mission:

  • Determine the three-dimensional structure and dynamic behavior of the rings of Saturn.
  • Determine the composition of the satellite surfaces and the geological history of each object.
  • Determine the nature and origin of the dark material on Iapetus’s leading hemisphere.
  • Measure the three-dimensional structure and dynamic behavior of the magnetosphere.
  • Study the dynamic behavior of Saturn’s atmosphere at cloud level.
  • Study the time variability of Titan’s clouds and hazes.
  • Characterize Titan’s surface on a regional scale.

 

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