End of the Cassini mission

October 15, 1997. Cassini made a beautiful and perfect launch. I had just met my wife-to-be. I had no kids of my own.

January 14, 2005: Cassini drops Huygens probe on Titan. One of my all-time favoritest moments:

September 15, 2017: Cassini’s fuel has finally run out. It will take an intentional dive into the atmosphere of Saturn. Taking pics and measurements along the way, it will very doubtfully reach anything resembling a surface. Instead it will burn up and disintegrate along the way, just barely scraping the highest of Saturn’s mostly Hydrogen, incredibly windy atmosphere. I just celebrated my 16th anniversary, my son is fourteen years old.

What a remarkable mission it’s been.

Turning the Switch on, update

A couple of weeks ago I was lamenting the apparent loss of information from the Huygens probe on Titan.  Well lo and behold, we get this today:

Radio Telescopes Salvage Titan Wind Data, Huygens Scientists Say

U.S. and European researchers are lauding the effectiveness of a network of ground-based telescopes that has apparently salvaged a wind experiment feared lost during a mission to the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan.

Astronomers were able to use a global group of radio telescopes and a simple signal tone bleated by Europe’s Huygens probe during its Jan. 14 Titan landing to determine the moon’s wind characteristics.

That is pretty dang cool.  I’d still like to see more pictures than what we apparently got.  Titan’s a pretty funky place apparently.

Turn the switch on

This is just precious:

Idaho Professor Laments Forgotten Titan Experiment

David Atkinson spent 18 years designing an experiment for the unmanned space mission to Saturn. Now some pieces of it are lost in space. Someone forgot to turn on the instrument Atkinson needed to measure the winds on Saturn’s largest moon.

“The story is actually fairly gruesome,” the University of Idaho scientist said in an e-mail from Germany, the headquarters of the European Space Agency. “It was human error – the command to turn the instrument on was forgotten.”

The probe was to transmit data on two channels, A and B, Atkinson said. His Doppler wind experiment was to use Channel A, a very stable frequency.

But the order to activate the receiver, or oscillator, for Channel A was never sent, so the entire mission operated through Channel B, which is less stable, Atkinson said……..

That’s right.  They forgot to turn it on.  In the eight years Huygens/Cassini was in route, no one made a checklist of what all needed to be done when it got there.  NASA is examining what went wrong.  I think it’s simple.  Find who was responsible for Channel A and fire them.

Wonder whatever happened to the guy who forgot to convert metric to feet on the lost Mars mission?

Exploring Titan

The image appears to show ravines that could have been carved by the liquid hydrocarbons thought to cover much of Titan’s surface. The ravines, stubby drainage-like channels, appeared to funnel toward what appeared to be a shoreline, researchers said during their initial reactions to the image. “If it’s not a sea, it appears to be a lake of tar-like material,” said John Zarnecky, principal investigator for the Huygens’ Surface Science Package, which is taking data from the surface of Titan.

This is very cool!


October 10, 2006 update: This isn’t new, but it’s still extremely cool. It’s a montage of pics from the Huygens’ landing to show what it would have looked like during the landing. Very cool. One of the coolest things I’ve ever seen from space!