The Outer Planets


Summary: The Cassini-Huygens mission was designed to study Saturn from different angles throughout its 74-orbit tour. Cassini is orbiting Saturn right now, and continues to make phenomenal discoveries about the planet, its moons and rings. Cassini released the Huygens probe into Titan's gravity as the pair entered the Saturnian system in 2004.

The Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft
6 Segments of Cassini's Tour
Related links
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Happy Landings: A Splash or a Splat?
Is There Life on Earth?



Cassini Rocket Launch
Cassini Rocket Launch
(click to enlarge)

The Cassini spacecraft is currently an ongoing mission designed to study Saturn, its moons, and its rings. Cassini entered the Saturnian system in July of 2004, at the same time releasing the Huygens probe onto Titan to uncover some of the mystery surrounding the cloudy moon. Cassini has made some surprising discoveries such as possible liquid lakes on Titan, strange structures in the rings, and a moon that spurts water at its poles.

Cassini's Gravitational Assists
Cassini's Gravitational Assits
(click to enlarge)

The diagram on the left shows the gravitational assists Cassini used on its way to Saturn. To see it in action, watch the video on NASA's site.

Cassini's Portrait of Saturn
Cassini's Portrait of Saturn
(click to enlarge)

This picture is a compilation of 126 images taken by Cassini of Saturn from end to end. It is the most detailed, natural-color picture to date taken of Saturn and its rings.


Cassini spent over 90 minutes firing its main rocket in order to slow down enough to trap itself in orbit around Saturn, rather than flying right by. At just the right moment, the ESA-built Huygens probe was launched into Titan's atmosphere. It successfully landed on the surface of Titan, revealing a desert-like landscape with mountain ranges in the background. Further passes of the moon by the Cassini spacecraft give evidence of possible liquid on the surface. Check out the video of the Huygens probe landing on Titan to witness one of the great successes of this mission.


6 Major Segments of Cassini's Tour Around Saturn

Each of the following six segments marks a change in the orbit or orientation of the Cassini spacecraft around Saturn.

  1. Saturn Orbit Insertion and Probe Release : The arrival of Cassini at Saturn and the deployment of the Huygens probe to Titan
  2. Occultation Sequence : Cassini orbits such that Saturn's rings mask the view of the Earth and Sun
  3. Petal Rotation and Magnetotail Petal : Opportunity to study the part of Saturn's magnetosphere that is facing away from the Sun
  4. Titan 180 Transfer : Cassini's orientation with respect to the Sun is flipped 180 degrees changing Cassini's orbit with respect to Saturn
  5. Rotation/Icy Satellites : A few very close flybys to study the detail of Saturn's moons
  6. High Inclination Sequence : Will study Saturn's polar regions, rings and magnetosphere

Find out where Cassini is now
The official Cassini-Huygens homepage

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