Countdown to Saturn orbit insertion


Event timings and UK contacts

Cassini-Huygens, the joint NASA/ESA/ASI space mission, is due to enter Saturn's orbit during the early hours of Thursday 1st July 2004.

From 28th June - 3rd July NASA will be operating a newsroom facility and will be holding daily press briefings during the lead up to Saturn Orbit Insertion, the event itself and the first results to come through.

These briefings will be shown on NASA and ESA TV and webcast (see details below).

Saturn Orbit Insertion (SOI) is a critical manoeuvre for the spacecraft. After crossing through the gap between two of the Saturn's rings Cassini-Huygens will fire its main engine to reduce its speed, allowing the spacecraft to be captured by Saturn's gravity and enter orbit. The spacecraft will then begin a four-year tour of the ringed planet, its mysterious moons, the stunning rings, and its complex magnetic environment. In December 2004 the Huygens probe will be released and it will descend onto the surface of Titan on 14th January 2005.

UK scientists are playing significant roles in the mission with involvement in 6 of the 12 instruments onboard the Cassini orbiter and 2 of the 6 instruments on the Huygens probe. The UK has the lead role in the magnetometer instrument on Cassini (Imperial College) and the Surface Science Package on Huygens (Open University).

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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