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Huygens probe on its way to Titan - Windows to the Universe

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This is what an artist thinks Huygens looks like near Titan. This picture shows Cassini (top middle), Huygens (left side), Saturn (right side), and the moon Titan (lower left).
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy NASA.

Huygens probe on its way to Titan
News story originally written on December 30, 2004

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is in orbit around the planet Saturn. Cassini carried a landing probe, named Huygens, with it on its long journey from Earth. On December 24, 2004, Cassini released the Huygens probe. Huygens will land on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, on January 14, 2005.

The Huygens probe will take 2-1/2 hours to descend through Titan's thick atmosphere on parachutes. It will make measurements of the moon's atmosphere as it descends. Nobody knows what the surface of Titan is like. It may be solid, or it might have lakes or seas of liquid ethane or methane. It might even be covered by a thick layer of methane snow. Huygens may land with a bump, a splash, or a puff!

The probe was built by the European Space Agency. It is named after Christiaan Huygens, a Dutch astronomer who lived in the 17th century. If it survives the landing, the Huygens probe may send back data from the icy surface of Titan for up to 30 minutes after it touches down. The Cassini spacecraft will continue to orbit Saturn, studying its moons and rings, for at least four years. Let's hope that Huygens has a safe landing and sends us good pictures of the surface of a world that nobody has ever seen before!

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF