Several countries are a part of the Cassini mission.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA
The Cassini probe began its journey to Saturn on
October 15, 1997. It flew by Earth
in August, 1999, before heading towards the distant planet. Cassini passed
Jupiter in 2000 and then burned towards its rendezvous with Saturn in 2004.
Cassini passed close to Saturn's moon Phoebe on June 11, 2004. The spacecraft
fired its main engine for 96 minutes on July 1, 2004 to slow itself down
and go into orbit around Saturn. Cassini's mission at Saturn
is scheduled to last four years.
This $3 billion project is a joint venture between the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and other
nations across the globe. The mission was named after Giovanni
Cassini, who discovered the Cassini
Division in Saturn's rings and several of Saturn's moons.
Cassini carries over 12 instruments that will study Saturn, its rings,
its magnetosphere, some of the icy satellites,
The main spacecraft also carries a small lander called Huygens. The Huygens
Probe will parachute down
through Titan's atmosphere and land on the strange moon.
Cassini uses plutonium as a fuel source instead of solar energy.
Since it is orbiting a planet that is so far out from the Sun,
it would need solar panels the size of tennis courts to capture enough energy to keep it functioning.
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