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, and Titan. 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.

Last modified January 12, 2005 by Randy Russell.

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