Cassini-Huygens, the joint NASA/ESA/ASI space mission has successfully made a close encounter with Saturn’s moon, Titan. This was confirmed in the early hours of this morning as the first information and pictures were beamed back via NASA’s Deep Space Network tracking station in Madrid, Spain. As anticipated, the spacecraft came within 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) of Titan’s surface.
At the time, Cassini was about 1.3 billion kilometres (826 million miles) from Earth. Numerous images, perhaps as many as 500, were taken by the visible light camera and were being transmitted back to Earth. It takes 1 hour and 14 minutes for the images to travel from the spacecraft to Earth. The downlink of data will continue through the night into the early morning hours. Cassini project engineers will continue to keep a close watch on a rainstorm in Spain, which may interrupt the flow of data from the spacecraft.
Professor Carl Murray from Queen Mary, University of London, a member of the Cassini Imaging Science Subsystem team, has been taking a look at the first images, "Titan’s veil has been lifted yet again and we have been treated to a spectacular array of images from this bizarre moon. The return of this data from such a peculiar and distant world is another remarkable success for Cassini. When the images are combined with data from the other instruments on Cassini we will have a much more complete understanding of what the Huygens probe can expect when it lands in January."
Gill Ormrod | alfa
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