by Theresa Scott
I was astounded to learn recently about a space voyage to Saturn that has been in motion since it was first launched in 1997 from Cape Canaveral. The voyage is called the Cassini Mission, named after the space craft launched to carry it out. The spacecraft is 22 feet high, and 13 feet wide.
The first Cassini Mission explored the Solar System. It arrived at Saturn in 2004 and orbited the planet 74 times, recording data. That mission was deemed to be complete in June 2008. Since the robotic spaceship was still hanging around in space, it was given a second mission, and then the third one: The Cassini Solstice Mission, which it is still carrying out. The spacecraft is expected to arrive at Saturn during the summer season in 2017, hence the name.
As the spacecraft hurtles through space, cameras on board take photos and send them back to earth. Other spacecraft are out in space too, doing their hurtling dance around the cosmos and occasionally taking pictures of planets and other space vehicles.
The robotic spaceship is nuclear powered and travelled 2.2 billion miles to get to Saturn. The spacecraft’s main function has been to send a steady stream of data back to earth since 2004. The spacecraft was programmed to make 74 orbits around Saturn and 44 flybys past one of Saturn’s moons, Titan. A probe, the Huygens Probe, took soil samples on Titan.
NASA for the U.S., and sixteen other countries on our planet, banded together to discover and learn about another planet. This program is a superb example of international cooperation. Cassini has enjoyed an amazing and successful voyage. Nice to know we can cooperate, isn’t it?
For a whole different perspective of our planet, I thought you might want to check out the pictures taken on July 19, 2013 by two other NASA space exploration vehicles with cameras. One particular picture shows the giant rings of Saturn–and then there’s us. We’re living on a teeny tiny white dot the size of a pinhead–our home in space.
(Post-publication: I removed some links because I couldn’t get all the links to work, but the FAQ link does take you to the web site so you can see all the neat stuff about the spacecraft and its mission! ~ Theresa)