This is what an artist thinks Huygens looks like near Titan. This picture shows Cassini (top middle), Huygens (left side), Saturn (right side), and the moon Titan (lower left).
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy NASA.
Huygens probe on its way to Titan
News story originally written on December 30, 2004
NASA's Cassini spacecraft is in
orbit around the planet Saturn. Cassini carried
a landing probe, named Huygens, with it on its long
journey from Earth. On December
24, 2004, Cassini released the Huygens probe. Huygens will land on Saturn's largest
moon, Titan, on January 14, 2005.
The Huygens probe will take 2-1/2 hours to descend through Titan's
thick atmosphere on parachutes. It will make measurements of the moon's atmosphere as it descends.
Nobody knows what the surface
of Titan is like. It may be solid, or it might
have lakes or seas of liquid ethane or methane. It might even be covered by
a thick layer of methane snow. Huygens may land with a bump, a splash, or a
The probe was built by the European Space Agency. It is named after Christiaan
Huygens, a Dutch astronomer who lived in the 17th century. If it survives
the landing, the Huygens probe may send back data from the icy surface of Titan
for up to 30 minutes after it touches down. The Cassini spacecraft will continue
to orbit Saturn, studying its moons and rings, for at least four years. Let's
hope that Huygens has a safe landing and sends us good pictures of the surface
of a world that nobody has ever seen before!
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