Cassini-Huygens Mission

Artist's concept of Cassini diving between Saturn and its innermost ring.
Artist Rendition of Cassini at Saturn. Image Credit: NASA
Cassini Huygens: Launched in 1997, Cassini and its Huygens probe spent nearly 7 years in space before arriving at Saturn in 2004. Cassini began gathering unprecedented data almost immediately and in 2005, the Huygens probe landed on Saturn’s moon Titan. Cassini finished its first mission in 2008 and then began the Solstice mission. By 2016, Cassini began its Ring Grazing Orbits, bringing the spacecraft closer to the rings than ever before and producing spectacular images. One of Cassini’s discoveries is jets of material shooting out from Saturn’s moon Enceladus, which is a telltale sign of a subterranean ocean which could harbor life. To ensure this moon isn’t contaminated, Cassini was deorbited (crashed) into Saturn. The beginning of this deorbiting included the Grand Finale Dives. These dives were extremely daring and took Cassini between Saturn and its rings. However, with great risk comes great reward, and when Cassini came into direct contact with Saturn’s atmosphere on some of these dives, it was able to gain high quality data. After 20 years in space, Cassini plummeted into Saturn’s atmosphere on September 15th while streaming real time data to Earth until the very end. Cassini has contributed to countless discoveries in the Saturn system and has paved the way for current and future space probes.

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