After a 7-year, 2.2-billion-mile looping voyage across the solar system, the international Cassini mission reaches Saturn on June 30
Cassini promises to run rings around earlier spacecraft-Saturn encounters. One of the biggest planetary spacecraft ever built, Cassini wont just fly by Saturn. It will be the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn, sending data from 12 orbiter experiments back for at least the next four years. In December, Cassini will launch a European-built probe called Huygens toward Saturns largest moon, Titan. The probe carries 6 experiments for studying Titan, a truly mysterious world that some scientists have worked half their careers to see.
The University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) plays a larger role in the Cassini-Huygens mission than any university in the world.
LPL scientists plan Cassinis observations for 45 orbiter flybys of Titan, and will process hundreds of Cassini images in the UAs Planetary Research Imaging Lab. An LPL scientist heads the imaging-spectrometer experiment that will photograph Saturn, its moons and rings at different wavelengths, from the visible to the infrared. Another LPL scientist leads the experiment that will produce the only views from the Huygens probe during its 2-hour, 15-minute fall to Titan¹s surface. Several other LPL scientists are on other mission teams that will guide operations and interpret discoveries from the prolonged, exploratory tour of the solar system¹s most beautiful planet.
A newly formed group is organizing four events in 2004 to make sure people age 4 on up dont miss this first-ever tour of Saturn and Titan.
The first event, "Saturn: The REAL Lord of the Rings," will be Saturday, June 19, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Kuiper Space Sciences Building, 1629 E. University Blvd., and the adjacent Flandrau Science Center on the UA campus.
LPL Director Michael Drake will emcee keynote science talks at 6:30 p.m. in Room 308 of the Kuiper building. Speakers include:
Youngsters, as well as adults, will have plenty to do starting at 5 p.m., before the science talks. In addition to filling up on cake and punch, courtesy of LPL, they can:
Visitors can park free all day on June 19 in the Cherry Ave. garage (southeast corner of Cherry Ave. and University Blvd.) or in any regular UA parking lot, including metered and "service vehicle only" spaces. Note that handicapped spaces are reserved for those designated users and that parking in the fenced NOAO lot north of Flandrau is prohibited. Maps, directions, and more information is on the web at http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/pop
Saturn event organizers include staff from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Flandrau Science Center, the Tucson-based Planetary Science Institute, and the UA. Group members, who have formed the Public Outreach Program (POP), are organizing a second program, "Titan: World of Mystery," to be held Saturday, July 10. They will organize October and November programs that will feature different Cassini scientists and present the latest Cassini images and discoveries. All programs also are NASA-JPL Solar System Ambassadors-sponsored events.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project between 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 mission for NASAs Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.
Lori Stiles | University of Arizona
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