Cassini: Continuing To Explore The Saturn System

An artist's depiction of the Cassini spacecraft at Saturn. Image Credit: Cassini spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

An artist’s depiction of the Cassini spacecraft at Saturn. Image Credit: Cassini spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

February 24, 2015 – On Wednesday, March 4, Nicole Albers will present highlights from 10 years of Cassini’s exploration at Saturn and provide an overview of the spectacular final mission phase. The free public lecture will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the LASP Space Sciences Building in Boulder, Colorado.

NASA’s Cassini mission launched in October 1997 with the European Space Agency’s Huygens probe. The probe was equipped with six instruments to study Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. It landed on Titan’s surface on Jan. 14, 2005, and returned spectacular results. Meanwhile, Cassini’s 12 instruments have returned a daily stream of data from Saturn’s system since arriving at Saturn in 2004.

Observations from NASA’s Cassini Mission have revolutionized our understanding of Saturn, its complex rings, amazing collection of moons, and magnetic environment. Uncovering the icy, active plumes on the tiny moon Enceladus, sighting moonlets embedded in the rings, imaging the vertical structure of the rings for the first time, and witnessing the eruption of Saturn’s great northern storm are only a few of the mission’s fascinating discoveries.

Continuing its journey through the end of 2017, the renamed Cassini Solstice Mission will be able to observe seasonal changes, map the north poles of the icy moons, and study the newly discovered dynamic ring phenomena. Before burning up in Saturn’s atmosphere, Cassini will travel just a few thousand kilometers above Saturn’s cloud tops. It will also fly in between the innermost D ring and the planet to explore this unique region, never before visited by any spacecraft.

The Cassini program is an international cooperative effort involving NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian space agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI), as well as several separate European academic and industrial contributors.

The major U.S. contractor is Lockheed Martin, whose contributions include the launch vehicle and upper stage, spacecraft propulsion module and the radioisotope thermoelectric generators. LASP contributed the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph.