Huygens descent to Titan's surface


Live coverage from ESA Operations Control Centre

14th January 2005

The Royal Society, Carlton House Terrace, London
15.00 hrs – 18.30 hrs GMT
(Registration from 14.30 hrs)

The separation of the Huygens probe from the Cassini spacecraft is scheduled for 25th December 2004, with the descent and arrival phase on 14th January 2005.

You are invited to attend a UK press briefing in London on the 14th January when Huygens descends through the atmosphere of Titan before arriving on its surface.

The event will provide direct comment and status updates from UK scientists [Prof. John Zarnecki and colleagues] and Prof. David Southwood [ESA Director of Science] at ESA Operations Control Centre, Darmstadt, including the ESA press briefing when the initial results from Huygens will be announced.

The descent begins around 0907 GMT and takes approximately two and a half hours. There is a time delay on communications between Cassini and Earth of 66 minutes. Data, via Cassini, will reach the ground station on Earth mid afternoon. Further details on ESA's media timeline can be found at:-

UK space scientists and industrialists involved in the mission will be on hand at The Royal Society to provide comment on events as they happen and answer any additional questions.

Programme tbc

Registration from 14.30 hours

1500 Welcome and introduction – Prof. Ian Halliday, CEO PPARC

Scene Setting and Huygens timeline– Prof. Colin Pillinger

Intermixed short talks:
Mission achievements to date
UK science and industrial involvement

1545 Live link for comment/Q and A with UK scientists at ESOC

1600 Live link to ESOC press briefing - latest status on mission data [This briefing will reveal whether the data has been successfully retrieved]

1700 Live link to UK scientists at ESOC - reactionary comment, Q and A

1730 Review of events – Prof. Colin Pillinger and Prof. Ian Halliday

1745 Refreshments and interview opportunities

An updated programme will be issued in early January.

Contact Julia Maddock, PPARC Press Office.
Tel: 01793 442094. Email:

UK Media Contacts for Christmas Day
Gill Ormrod – PPARC Press Office (Duty Press Officer)
Tel: 44-179-344-2012 Mobile: 0781-801-3509.

Louis De La Forêt - Media Relations Officer, Open University
Tel: 44-190-865-3256. Mobile 0777-181-0099

Natalie Bealing – CCLRC Press Office
Mobile: 44-794-151-8321

UK Scientists available for comment on 25 December [Christmas Day]
Professor John Zarnecki, Open University – Principal Investigator for Huygens Surface Science Package, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California (GMT minus 8 hours)
Mobile: 44-776-994-3883

Mark Leese, OU Huygens team
Mobile: 794-141-3933

Andrew Ball, OU Huygens team
Mobile: 44-790-510-4576

Dave Parker – CCLRC Huygens team
Mobile: 44-771-284-7427

Professor Carl Murray, Queen Mary, University of London – Co-Investigator on Imaging Science Subsystem team
Tel: 44-207-882-5456. Email
Mobile: 44-797-624-3883.

Dr Andrew Coates, Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UCL – Co-Investigator on Cassini Plasma Electron Spectrometer (Cassini)
Tel: 44-148-320-4145. Email:
Mobile: 44-778-844-8318

ESA and NASA PR Contacts
ESA/ESOC Media Relations - Jocelyne Landeau-Constantin
Tel: 49-615-190-2696

ESA/Head Office Media Relations - Franco Bonacina
Tel: 33-1-5369-7155

JPL Media Relations - Carolina Martinez
Tel: 1-818-354-9382 or 1-818-354-5011


NASA/ESA may release images taken by the cameras onboard Cassini after Huygens was released. These will be of relatively low quality (approximately 11 pixels). At the earliest these will be released on the afternoon of Boxing Day. See the NASA and ESA websites for updates (links below).

Broadcast Details




PPARC - Further details about the UK role in the mission, a full list of UK contacts (science and industry) and the media invite for the UK briefing on 14th January can be found at:-

After a successful launch in October 1997, Cassini Huygens, the joint ESA/NASA/ASI space mission set out to explore Saturn and it moons, particularly Titan and its atmosphere.

After a journey of more than seven years and a successful orbit insertion around Saturn on 1 July 2004, the spacecraft is currently heading for Titan, Saturn's largest moon. The ESA Huygens probe will be the first robotic spacecraft to explore the atmosphere of Titan during a 2.5 hour descent before arriving on its surface. The Cassini spacecraft will continue to explore Saturn for the next four years, and provide the vital communications link with Huygens during its descent.

UK Science and Industrial Involvement

UK scientists are playing significant roles in the Cassini Huygens 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).

UK industry had developed many of the key systems for the Huygens probe, including the flight software (LogicaCMG) and parachutes (Martin Baker). These mission critical systems need to perform reliably in some of the most challenging and remote environments ever attempted by a man made object. For example, the Huygens probe will hit the atmosphere of Titan at 6 km/sec. LogicaCMG's software onboard the probe will be responsible for deploying the parachutes, separating the front and back shield with precise timings to achieve the required descent profile; reducing the velocity of Huygens before commencing the science experiments, and managing communications back to Cassini. The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL.

The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) is the UK's strategic science investment agency. It funds research, education and public understanding in four broad areas of science - particle physics, astronomy, cosmology and space science.

PPARC is government funded and provides research grants and studentships to scientists in British universities, gives researchers access to world-class facilities and funds the UK membership of international bodies such as the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, CERN, the European Space Agency and the European Southern Observatory. It also contributes money for the UK telescopes overseas on La Palma, Hawaii, Australia and in Chile, the UK Astronomy Technology Centre at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh and the MERLIN/VLBI National Facility.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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