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Mars was easy, now Saturn: Cassini SpaceGadget

Phillip Torrone
June 30, 2004
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The robotic invasion of our solar system is progressing nicely. For the last 7 years the Cassini spacecraft has been speeding towards Saturn, a 2 billion mile trek and today (6/30/04) it will zip through Saturn's rings and orbit the planet. What will it do there? take pictures, send data back and invade the moon Titan with the Huygens probe. What are the tech specs on these space gadgets?

Cassini orbiter:
Launched Oct. 15, 1997.
22 feet long and weighs 12,593 pounds.
Power: Nuclear power.
Will orbit Saturn 76 times over four years.



Huygens probe:
Spacecraft is 8.9 feet in diameter and 705 pounds.
Will be released from Cassini on Dec. 24, 2004.
Will land on Titan's atmosphere on Jan. 14, 2005.


Retail price:
$3.3 billion, shared by NASA, ESA, Italian Space Agency.

Interesting fact: Cassini has a DVD record of 616,400 handwritten signatures from 81 countries around the globe, including the mission's namesakes, Jean-Dominique Cassini and Christiaan Huygens, lifted from 17th-century letters. We kinda wonder what region encoding they put on that and if it's CSS'd so that there won't be any aliens bootlegging it.

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