On September 14th, the Cassini Huygens satellite will finally run out of fuel after 13 years taking pictures of Saturn. It will descend through Saturn’s atmosphere, and meet a rather ‘fiery end’ where it will be torn to pieces towards Saturn’s clouds and melted by the planet’s glass.
On its 13 – year long voyage, the satellite has made many shocking discoveries.
- It has discovered a watery ocean beneath the surface of Enceladus, one of Saturns 53 moons.
- It has shown many similarities between Titan and Earth, showing Titan to have seasonal cycles, wind and rain. Titan is actually the size of a planet, and may be considered as such, if it weren’t for the fact that it is within orbit of Saturn.
- It has observed previously unknown structures ‘propellers’ within the mysterious 7 rings
- It has revealed giant hurricanes on the Surface of Saturn, including bizarre hexagonal jet stream.
The name ‘Cassini’ came from the Italian- French astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini, the discoverer of Saturns ring divisions. The ‘Huygens’ probe was named after the physicist who discovered its largest moon, Titan.
The total cost to date of the 19 year long mission cost 2.54 billion pounds. The satellite has traveled a total of 7.9 billion kilometres. Economics students should look at how NASA and governments decide to dedicate a substantial amount of finances to space missions. Physicists should look at the risks taken in space exploration, and the rigorous calculations that go into the various components these meticulously planned missions, such as the Huygens landing on the surface of Titan. History students should look at the space race, and how it has effected the emphasis given to space exploration.
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