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Paper: The Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn and Titan
Volume: 281, Astronomical Data Analysis Software and Systems XI
Page: 373
Authors: Miner, Ellis D.
Abstract: On 15 October 1997, the most capable interplanetary spacecraft ever built was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Station near Cocoa Beach, Florida, atop a Titan 4B/Centaur launch vehicle. The Cassini spacecraft has used flyby gravitational assists at Venus (twice), Earth (once), and Jupiter (once) on its way to reaching its target nearly seven years after launch. On July 1, 2004, the spacecraft will be inserted into orbit around the ringed planet; its primary mission concludes four years later on July 1, 2008. This article provides an overview of the design of the Cassini spacecraft (including its Huygens probe), a description of the mission, and a brief outline of the scientific objectives. While the Voyager 1 and 2 flybys in 1980 and 1981 provided a first close examination of the giant planet Saturn, Cassini's 27 scientific investigations will do an in-depth four-year orbital study of the system. Early in its orbital tour around Saturn, Cassini will release its Huygens probe (built by the European Space Agency), which will traverse the atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, and collect data from its surface. Titan is the second largest moon in the solar system and the only one that possesses a substantial atmosphere. Six scientific instrument packages are part of the Huygens probe. The Cassini orbiter carries an additional 12 instrument packages. Nine interdisciplinary investigations utilize data from two or more instruments to complete their scientific studies. In addition to Titan, the scientific objectives address better understanding of the atmosphere and interior of Saturn, of the complex ring system, of the seventeen presently known icy moons (excluding the 12 recently discovered outer moons), and of the huge magnetic bubble surrounding Saturn known as the magnetosphere. Scientists from at least 16 nations are involved in these studies.
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