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Cassini Spacecraft Approaches Saturn...

by Blake Cook / June 30, 2004 5:22 PM PDT

PASADENA, Calif., June 30 -- The Cassini spacecraft approached Saturn tonight, on course to go where no robotic visitor from Earth has gone before: into an orbit of that faraway planet of serene beauty embellished by an exquisite array of encircling rings.

If the spacecraft passes unscathed through an opening in the rings and its braking rocket fires on time and at full strength, it should be in position to explore Saturn and its retinue of 31 known satellites over the next four years, perhaps much longer. A planned highlight of the $3.3 billion American-European mission is the first thorough investigation of Saturn's mysterious planet-size moon, Titan.

Flight controllers here at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory waited anxiously as Cassini streaked toward its destination, gathering speed from the relentless tug of Saturn's gravity. At the passage through the rings, it is to be traveling more than 50,000 miles an hour, almost twice its velocity at the beginning of the day.

To slow down enough to be captured by Saturn's gravity, the spacecraft's main rocket engine is to fire for 96 minutes, beginning at 7:36 p.m. Pacific time and ending at 9:12 p.m.. The Cassini spacecraft should then be orbiting Saturn -- or be in trouble.


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Update: Cassini Spacecraft in orbit around Saturn...
by Dave Konkel [Moderator] / June 30, 2004 11:34 PM PDT
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Spacecraft Sends Back Images of Saturn...
by Blake Cook / July 1, 2004 7:17 AM PDT

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - Just hours after swooping into orbit around Saturn, the Cassini spacecraft sent "absolutely mind-blowing" images of the giant planet's rings back to Earth early Thursday.

The first shadowy close-ups of ring segments were taken from the U.S.-European craft as it entered orbit late Wednesday. As more and more pictures came in Thursday, the images from the dark side of the rings gradually gave way to increasingly clear pictures.

Mission scientists and engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory had watched tensely late Wednesday as a signal indicated first that Cassini - launched nearly seven years ago - had safely passed through the ring plane and then performed a crucial engine firing. It squeezed through a gap in Saturn's shimmering rings, fired its brakes and settled into a near-perfect orbit around the giant planet.

"I can tell you it feels awfully good to be in orbit around the lord of the rings," JPL Director and Cassini radar team member Charles Elachi said.


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Re: Images of Saturn -- DO check out JPL site!
by Dave Konkel [Moderator] / July 1, 2004 11:15 PM PDT
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Re: Cassini -- Scientists revel as pics ease rings mystery
by Dave Konkel [Moderator] / July 3, 2004 3:08 AM PDT
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Cassini Gets a Look at Saturn Moon Titan...
by Blake Cook / July 3, 2004 9:56 AM PDT

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - Scientists on Saturday released what they called the best pictures yet of the frozen surface of Saturn's enormous moon Titan but said they were puzzled that the Cassini spacecraft hadn't glimpsed any evidence of liquids.

The latest images of Titan revealed a single set of clouds about the size of Arizona and dark and light shapes across the moon that the imaging team continued to analyze. The shots of the moon's surface features were taken during Cassini's first pass Friday at a distance of about 200,000 miles.

"It's different from anything we've ever seen before," imaging scientist Elizabeth Turtle said. "We're still trying to understand the surface of Titan."

Scientists believe the moon could have chemical compounds much like those that existed on Earth billions of years ago before life appeared.


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Saturn Probe Struck By Dust Storms...
by Blake Cook / July 13, 2004 6:17 AM PDT

The Cassini spacecraft was hit by storms of dust as it passed through Saturn's rings twice just before going into orbit June 30.

Cassini sliced through known gaps in the rings so that it wouldn't be destroyed by huge icy boulders. But the gaps are not entirely empty, it turns out.

Cassini was peppered by microscopic bits of dust that slammed into it at about 45,000 mph (20 kilometers per second). At the peak of activity, 680 bits per second pummeled the probe, according to

The impacts were recorded and converted to a sound file that is available on the Internet.


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Saturn Offers More Mystery, Less Certainty...
by Blake Cook / July 14, 2004 3:51 AM PDT

Saturn can surprise even the most sage astronomer.

New images of Titan captured by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft have taken scientists aback, forcing them to reconsider long-held opinions about Saturn's mysterious, cloud-shrouded moon.

Scientists had expected Titan to be a preserved ice cube resembling what Earth might have been like 4 billion years ago. But they are seeing something else entirely: a ridged and hazy surface that may be wracked by ice-cracking quakes.

"The story has changed completely," says imaging team scientist Elizabeth Turtle of the University of Arizona.


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(NT) (NT) Thanks,...very interesting things happening near Saturn
by James Denison / July 16, 2004 5:23 AM PDT
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Cassini Images Show Two-Faced Saturn Moon...
by Blake Cook / July 16, 2004 2:57 AM PDT

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - The international Cassini spacecraft has taken new images of Saturn's two-faced moon Iapetus, possibly offering clues to why the moon has a dark hemisphere and another that is bright, scientists said Thursday. Researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory hope Cassini's observations of the mysterious moon help determine where the dark material comes from.


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2 new moons discovered orbiting Saturn.
by James Denison / August 17, 2004 3:26 AM PDT

Keeping the count correct on Cassini's discoveries. I'm surprised to hear such small bodies refered to as "moons". Seems they could better be considered captured asteroids.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has spied two new little moons around satellite-rich Saturn, the space agency said Monday.

Saturn's tally of known moons now stands at 33.

The images were taken by Cassini on June 1 from 10 million miles out, as it approached the ringed planet. The spacecraft entered orbit around Saturn on June 30.

The two newly spotted, faint moons are about 2 miles and 2&1/2 miles across, and 120,000 miles and 131,000 miles respectively from Saturn's center.

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Cassini Takes Image of Saturn's Rings...
by Blake Cook / July 22, 2004 1:30 PM PDT

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - The international Cassini spacecraft sent back a natural-color image of Saturn showing the planet's rings are shades of pink, gray and a bit of brown, scientists announced Thursday.

The image was taken June 21, a few days before the spacecraft entered orbit, from 4 million miles below the rings.

The rings are mostly ice, which is white if it is pure. Researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory believe the different colors reflect the presence of other materials, such as rock or carbon compounds.

Detailed close-ups sent immediately after Cassini entered orbit on June 30 were in black and white. Another vivid set of ring images released previously used infrared photography.



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