An Historic Mission to the Ringed Planet

Michael Meltzer

THE CASSINI-HUYGENS VISIT TO SATURN: An Historic Mission to the Ringed Planet CASSINI-HUYGENS was the most ambitious and successful space journey ever launched to the outer Solar System. This book examines all aspects of the journey: its conception and planning; the lengthy political processes needed to make it a reality; the engineering and development required to build the spacecraft; its 2.2-billion mile journey from Earth to the Ringed Planet; and the amazing discoveries from this mission. The author traces how the visions of a few brilliant scientists matured, gained popularity, and eventually became a reality.

Innovative technical leaps were necessary to assemble such a multifaceted spacecraft and reliably operate it while it orbited a planet so far from our own. The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft design evolved from other deep space efforts, most notably the Galileo mission to Jupiter, enabling the voluminous, paradigm-shifting scientific data collected by the spacecraft. Some of these discoveries are absolute gems. A small satellite that scientists once thought of as a dead piece of rock turned out to contain a warm underground sea that could conceivably harbor life. And we now know that hiding under the mist of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is a world with lakes, fluvial channels, and dunes hauntingly reminiscent of those on our own planet, except that on Titan, it's not water that fills those lakes but hydrocarbons. These and other breakthroughs illustrate why the Cassini-Huygens mission will be remembered as one of the greatest voyages of discovery ever made.

Table of Contents

Author's preface

PART I Creating a new expedition to Saturn
1. Conceiving and funding the mission
2. Building an international partnership and preventing mission cancellation

PART II Designing, fabricating, and integrating the Cassini-Huygens space vessel
3. Constructing the Cassini Orbiter
4. The Titan Huygens Probe
5. Integrating the Cassini Orbiter, Huygens probe, and Titan/Centaur launch vehicle
6. Using plutonium to run a spacecraft

PART III From Earth to Saturn
7. The interplanetary journey
8. How a few people can make a big difference: The Doppler shift problem that nearly ended the Huygens mission
9. The Titan Huygens Probe mission
10. The Saturn tour: Decision-making processes, trajectory design, and changes of management

PART IV A great natural laboratory
11. The mother planet and its magnetosphere
12. The ring system
13. The icy moons
14. Titan observations by the Cassini Orbiter
15. Conclusions

Appendix: Breakdown of mission costs
About the author
Image credits

Extent: 401 pages, Black and white/colour images integrated with text
Binding: Paperback
Published: 2015
ISBN: 978-3-319-07607-2

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