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Cassini's Huygens Probe Rendezvous with Titan 113

Posted by michael
from the bomb's-away dept.
im333mfg writes "Tonight at 7:08pm PST, the Cassini spacecraft will be releasing the much anticipated Huygens Probe for a rendezvous with the Saturn moon Titan. It will be making a 22 day journey to the moon, and end up entering the atmosphere sometime on January 14th. 'Titan is one of the remaining puzzles of the solar system - while Cassini's imaging cameras and radar instrument have begun to reveal the details of its surface, the Huygens probe will be the first spacecraft to venture beneath Titan's thick clouds.'"
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Cassini's Huygens Probe Rendezvous with Titan

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  • BBC News (Score:5, Informative)

    by KrackerJax (83403) on Friday December 24, 2004 @06:48PM (#11178646)
    In addition to the numerous links in the post, here is an arcticle by the BBC:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/41 12917. stm

    Some pretty pictures and informative text.
  • I read that as Rendezvous with Trillian (eg. ZeroConf).
    • When I first saw the headline I read it as "space probe uses jupiter moon to help reverse-engineer Apple networking technology".

      I probably made such an interpretation because I've spent three months trying to create an XGrid interoperability layer in python only to be continually thwarted by strange undocumented stuff. At this point, misusing heavenly bodies for personal gain doesn't sound like such a bad idea.
  • Vaya con dios.
  • I wonder when we will have a probe on every single planet(that can be probed) Its the first step to taking it over, i say 200 years, and we will have a colony on most major inhabitible satalites. Too bad none of us will be around to c it, it will be amazing to be able to visit another plant
    • Re:Colonize (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Sounds like you've been visiting "plants" all afternoon.
    • Titan is OURS. Your probe will be destroyed.

      Regards,

      The Martian Defense Forces
    • I wonder when we will have a probe on every single planet(that can be probed) Its the first step to taking it over, i say 200 years, and we will have a colony on most major inhabitible satalites.

      The radiation around the gas giants is heavy. It would take some huge sheilding. I don't know how much protection Titan's atmosphere provides. Drilling caves may be the way to go. My guess is that colonizing will not be practical until AI robots help harness and process materials to make a colony self-sustaining
      • sunlight is so dim near Saturn

        A bright full moon here probably beats Titan's sun at high noon. For food production, think artificial lighting powered by fusion reactors (probably will have developed that by then).

    • See here:
      http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid= 04/12/0 3/164257&from=rss
  • A lot of time, money, and hope has been invested in this project. Let's wish it the extra bit of luck so that all goes to plan!

  • say what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jbridge21 (90597) <jeffrey+slashdot@NOSpAM.firehead.org> on Friday December 24, 2004 @06:57PM (#11178691) Journal
    Titan is one of the remaining puzzles of the solar system

    Are you kidding? We've hardly even begun! Mysterious things are going on with Saturn's rings between last time we flew by and this time, we've been getting a whole truckload of data from Mars which we have only barely begun to analyze, and we have no idea what's on the inside of Jupiter. Oh, and no close-up pictures of Pluto, ever.
    • Re:say what? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Plus: Europa-the-planet [solarviews.com]. Water beneath the ice. Lots of critters.
      • "Lots of critters."

        Guesstimated critters with zero evidence of critters, let alone, lots of critters.
    • and not to mention other galaxies...
    • Yep,

      ...Triton looks like it has some pretty interesting and poorly understood stuff going on as well... Methane(?) geysers?

      ...Miranda - some of the most bizarre topology in the solar system.

      <sarcasm>
      Yeah, after Cassini/Huygens we may as well disband JPL and ESA, at least as far as planetary missions go...
      </sarcasm>

    • It didn't say Titan is the only remaining puzzle. The fact that we haven't solved any of the puzzles in the solar system doesn't make the statement incorrect, just a bit confused. :)
    • There will be pictures sometime around 2015 of Pluto, with the New Horizons mission.
    • Re:say what? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by meringuoid (568297)
      Oh, and no close-up pictures of Pluto, ever.

      Not only that, we have no complete map of Mercury. Only one spacecraft has ever visited Mercury, and it flew past photographing about two thirds of the planet's surface as it went by.

      Now, Pluto's a hell of a way away, and it's not even a real planet anyway, so it's understandable that we've never been. But our neglect of Mercury is downright shameful.

      Damn, shouldn't have phrased things quite like that. I'll be singing 'Blame Pluto' to myself all day now...

  • FYI (Score:2, Informative)

    by computerme (655703)
    You will be able to watch this on one of you CSPAN channels tonight.

    (in the US)

    I watched the last couple of Mars mission Events and it was GREAT! (ok i'm a space geek)

    CSPAN, its not just for politics anymore!
    • But it's still for nerds. Different nerds, is all.
    • Re:FYI (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Tablizer (95088) on Friday December 24, 2004 @09:05PM (#11179154) Homepage Journal
      You will be able to watch this on one of you CSPAN channels tonight.

      I can summarize what you will see. Since there will be no images of the seperation until a day or so later, at which time it would only be a distant speck, you will see a bunch of nervious nerds watching their monitors. And...

      if the separation goes well:

      "Yeah! We did it!"

      if the separation is zarked:

      "Oh shit! There goes my life's @&#* work!"

      The odd thing is that once separation happens, there is only one-way communication with the probe and Huygens has no guidence rockets. In fact, it will be sleeping via timer until just before entry. There is no way to alter it's course, change parameters, or nothing. If we found out between that time that it will land in a pile of quicksand or the atmospheric models are totally off (messing up parachute timing), there is no retargeting or changing the mission plan.

      It is considered primarily an atmospheric mission, and landing is more or less a bonus. But I think the coolest thing would be to land in an oil sea and see giant waves. The waves can be taller on Titan because of lower gravity. They could be giant and slow-rolling. It will be a great mission if it makes it to the surface while transmitting, but a lot can go wrong. Parachutes have been a problematic technology in the past. I hope some bone-head did not put something on backward, like they did that Utah-crashing probe. Galileo's Jupiter penetrator also had parachute problems, but luckily recovered by shear chance. And, they already found a transmitter problem in the probe. They compensated for it by changing Cassini's flight path to avoid too much Dopler shifting.

      I wish they split it into two smaller probes which shared instruments between them to reduce the chance of complete loss. But, that is generally still more expensive than one bigger probe.

      Good Luck, Little Probee
      • Re:FYI (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bani (467531)
        I wish they split it into two smaller probes which shared instruments between them to reduce the chance of complete loss.

        experience has shown that this doesn't help. they either all work, or all fail. the only thing multiple probes get you is a more diverse data set, not increased reliability.

        the galileo atmospheric probe parachute problem is new to me though, do you have any references?
        • by Fweeky (41046)
          From Wikipedia's page on the subject [wikipedia.org]:

          "The atmospheric probe deployed its first parachute about one minute later than anticipated, resulting in a small loss of upper atmospheric readings. Through review of records, the problem was later determined to likely be faulty wiring in the parachute control system. The fact that the chute opened at all was attributed to luck."

          Some interesting bits on the data recorder there too.
        • experience has shown that this doesn't help. [twin probes] either all work, or all fail.

          Which twin failures are you refering to? We have Mariner 1, Mariner 5 (or was it 3?), and Mariner 8 that failed, but the twin worked.
          • by bani (467531)
            Oh I don't know, maybe deep space 2 [wikipedia.org] perhaps?

            There are other dual failures, such as Russia's Marsnik 1 and 2, Sputnik 22 and 24, Mars 2 and 3, Mars 6 and 7, Phobos 1 and 2... the list goes on.

            Experience tells us you are much better off risk-wise with discrete individual missions than you are with paired simultaneously launched probes.
    • My inlaws are hogging the TV. Anybody got any news? Thanx in advance
  • discuss this on irc (Score:3, Informative)

    by yuriwho (103805) on Friday December 24, 2004 @07:07PM (#11178729)
    For those interested, folks in the channel #space on irc.freenode.net will be discussing this. Please join in!

    Y
    • * Now talking in #space * Topic is 'Please keep the JPLers killed or injured in (DEC 8th) car accident in your thoughts and prayers. Please see http://tinyurl.com/63d7h for details. The Opportunity publications from Science magazine are available at http://homepage.mac.com/yuriwho/op1.pdf through op15.pdf' * Set by SOC-Pandelirium on Thu Dec 16 03:55:52 -ChanServ- [#space] Welcome to space. -Huygens- WizardRahl: Welcome to #space, make yourself comfortable... Type !countdown for the next Cassini-Huygens enc

    • by WizardRahl (840191) on Friday December 24, 2004 @07:15PM (#11178774)
      * Now talking in #space
      * Topic is 'Please keep the JPLers killed or injured in (DEC 8th) car accident in your thoughts and prayers. Please see http://tinyurl.com/63d7h for details. The Opportunity publications from Science magazine are available at http://homepage.mac.com/yuriwho/op1.pdf through op15.pdf&#15;'
      * Set by SOC-Pandelirium on Thu Dec 16 03:55:52
      -ChanServ- [#space] Welcome to space.
      -Huygens- &#2;WizardRahl&#2;: Welcome to &#2;#space&#2;, make yourself comfortable... Type !countdown for the next Cassini-Huygens encounter. Type !recap for a recap of channel activity. Other channels of interest: #space_politics #Spaceshipone #xprize . Web sites of interest: http://foxcheck.org . This is a Family Oriented Channel. Swearing is not tolerated.
      <WizardRahl> who play's jean luc's character in star trek TNG?
      <WizardRahl> anyone know?
      <DanTekGeek> oh god
      <DanTekGeek> i know
      <DanTekGeek> um
      <DanTekGeek> PATRICK STUART!
      <DanTekGeek> thats it
      <DEChengst> Steward ?\
      <DEChengst> tea, earl grey, hot !
      <yuriwho-ha> make it so!
    • Yeah... slashdotting irc channel is what we want... expect +mi soon :)
      • Actually, everyone has been well behaved.
        But then we have a swearing kick bot and many ops to take care of trouble makers.

        The discussion is good, civil and space focussed.

        Y
  • I am anxiously awaiting the Jan 13th entry into Titan's atmosphere. Apparently there are huge electrical storms on Titan, and to top it all off with gooey, sugary icing, Huygens has a fricking microphone on it. Now that is going to be sweet. The only thing that I don't particularly like about it is that my mission, Deep Impact, could have our launch pushed back a day due to DSN coverage for the descent, but what the hell, it's *so* worth it.
    • This is the first new landing on a new planet like body since the 1970s, yeah, this little Huygens probe is a big, big deal.

      Good luck on Deep Impact too. I want my kids to be able to mine asteroids.
    • Yep. Also, let's hope that ESA has a better showing this christmas eve than they did last year (Beagle anyone?) In addition, I'm also anxious to see if the new trajectory solves the communications snafu discovered a few years back.

      Thanks for the good wishes for DI. We're working our behinds off right now, but once the bird is flying we'll be in good shape.

  • Slow down cowboy ! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bstadil (7110) on Friday December 24, 2004 @07:13PM (#11178764) Homepage
    Titan is one of the remaining puzzles of the solar system

    Yes in the same way that most of Physics was deemed understood by the turn of the 19'th century.

  • With all of these probes, and the possibility of life on other planets - and maybe life squashed over 'millions of years' - maybe this is just one great big hunt for intergalactic oil deposits?
  • by multiplexo (27356) on Friday December 24, 2004 @07:25PM (#11178803) Journal
    I wish that NASA would junk ISS and the Shuttle and direct more money towards probes such as this, or the Martian rovers or the new Messenger [jhuapl.edu] probe to Mercury or putting more probes onto the surface and into the atmosphere of Venus to add to what we learned from the Soviet Venera [wikipedia.org] probes.

    We learn a lot more from a single one of these probes than we do from having a couple of starving astronauts [thespoof.com] endlessly orbiting the earth in a big tin can full of their own garbage [space.com].

    • by sh0rtie (455432) on Friday December 24, 2004 @11:27PM (#11179507)

      You know, people need to visit that Soviet Venera Mission [wikipedia.org] you posted link to really appreciate what space exploration is, 14 probes ! they kept failing and they just built another one ,(can you imagine that today ?) those russians kept plugging away till they got a decent mission dataset (a pic + data :-) over 20 years, do we (mankind) have any long term serious goals like that?, or are we still bent on sending people (human vanity) to mars ?, is it really that important to get boots there ? would the time and effort be best spent exploring other worlds/planets in more detail first ? just think what we can do with cutting edge 2005 technology if we put our minds (and the funds) to it.

  • In the realted news from Titanian reporter:
    Titanians have detected the very much possibility of an earth satellite colliding with their planet and they have demanded the government funding to detect such disasters and avoid the damage in the future.

    In other related news from Titanian reporter:
    Titan weather department is planning the weather baloon tests on coming 14th Jan.
  • Reports out of NASA confirm that scientists have recently probed the gassy inards of Uranus.
  • Getting there (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wronski (821189) on Friday December 24, 2004 @07:53PM (#11178904)
    A probe like Cassini is about the best that can be done with chemical propulsion technology. It took billions and decades, to get it there. To really explore the Solar System (with sample returns or manned missions) what we need is more efficient propulsion, as well as cheap access to low earth orbit. There have been some nice recent experimental crafts with ion engines, and of course there is the X-prize thing, but my impression is that the getting there part is often overlooked because of all the sexy and interesting things there are in the doing part.

    Dont get me wrong, Cassini & Huygens are brilliant, I just wish we had invested more effort into making this sort of mission fundamentally easier.

    Merry Christmas All!
    • "Dont get me wrong, Cassini & Huygens are brilliant, I just wish we had invested more effort into making this sort of mission fundamentally easier."

      The Jupiter Icy Moons Oribter will have a nuclear reactor. A proper one, not one of those wimpy radiothermal jobs.
      • "The Jupiter Icy Moons Oribter will have a nuclear reactor."

        Personally, I'd much rather see these things with chemical propulsion until something else non-radioactive (solar, fusion, ?) becomes feasible. There's always a chance that something could fail, and if it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere there could be some nasty fallout.

        Better safe than sorry, IMO.

        • "Personally, I'd much rather see these things with chemical propulsion until something else non-radioactive (solar, fusion, ?) becomes feasible. There's always a chance that something could fail, and if it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere there could be some nasty fallout."

          If the launch vehicle crashed, the worst that could happen would be the release of less uranium than coal power plants already release on a regular basis. Uranium just isn't that radioactive.

          The reactor would only be activated when th
        • Re:Getting there (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Wyatt Earp (1029)
          Well, if we wait for Fusion, we might wait 10 years, or a hundred or a thousand.

          Solar arrays would have to be HUGE to provide the power we need in the outer solar system.

          Nuclear is the best way to do, one can built a vessel that'll survive a rocket failure or an unexpected deorbit and uncontrolled re-entry.

          There's already alot of natural radiation out there and if there was an accident with a uranium reactor, it wouldn't be that bad.
    • Re:Getting there (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/423414.stm [bbc.co.uk] It looks like Cassini is powered by nuclear, which is opposite of your argument above. Or were you trying to restrict ion engines to this type of technology http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4015227.stm [bbc.co.uk] Happy holidays slashdotters
    • Cassini didn't take decades to get to Saturn. It was launched Oct. 15, 1997 [nasa.gov]. It entered orbit on June 30, 2004.
      • Cassini was indeed lounched in 1997, after many years of delay. As for nuclear energy, it is indeed nuclear-powerered, but used conventional chemical propulsion to get to Saturn.
  • There was a solar wind collecting sattelite that had the explosive bolts on the re-entry portion put in *backwards*.

    End result was a smashed saucer embedded in the desert.

    • You're referring to the Genesis [nasa.gov] mission.

      The problem was not explosive bolts. The likely cause improper mounting of the gravity-switches that would have started off the parachute deployment. It hasn't been determined if the problem was that they were put in backwards by the technicians contrary to the plans or if the plans were not clear enough. The Mishap Investigation Board is still working on determining the cause and procedures to fix the problems. See their Status Report #4 [nasa.gov].

      All is not lost thoug

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