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Cassini's Primary Mission Ends, Two-Year Extension Begins 46

wooferhound points out recent news that the Cassini probe has completed its original four-year mission and is beginning a two-year extended mission, which was authorized earlier this year. Cassini's first mission brought us a treasure trove of information about Saturn and its various moons. The new mission will target two of those moons in particular for further study: Titan and Enceladus. Quoting: "The spacecraft is extremely healthy and carries 12 instruments powered by three radioisotope thermoelectric generators. Data from Cassini's nominal and extended missions could lay the groundwork for possible future missions to Saturn, Titan or Enceladus. [The two moons] are primary targets in the two-year extended mission, dubbed the Cassini Equinox Mission. This time period also will allow for monitoring seasonal effects on Titan and Saturn, exploring new places within Saturn's magnetosphere, and observing the unique ring geometry of the Saturn equinox in August of 2009 when sunlight will pass directly through the plane of the rings."
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Cassini's Primary Mission Ends, Two-Year Extension Begins

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  • Re:incredible (Score:5, Informative)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Saturday July 05, 2008 @02:47AM (#24064493) Homepage

    That would be 'mostly correct'. Voyager 2 was the backup for Voyager 1, but it was planned from fairly early on that if Voyager 1 sucessfully flew by Titan (and thus completed the primary mission of Voyager 1/2) then Voyager 2 would be diverted to Uranus and Neptune.

  • Re:what the hell? (Score:5, Informative)

    by dlevitan ( 132062 ) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @03:39AM (#24064611)

    Personally I find it strange that a member of the Mars Phoenix team left the project while the vehicle was still operating on Mars [], and that the most of the team are taking the July 4 holiday off [] as if Phoenix will still be there in a years time.

    With regards to the first post, the author is apparently a master's student who has completed his degree and is now leaving. More specifically, he's interested in science education and while I confess I'm not sure what E/PO Coordinator & Evaluator stands for, there's a good chance (with his background) that it means Education/Public Outreach. In which case its not a critical position and his leaving, if it was already planned (which it seems to have been), this is not a serious issue.

    As for taking the weekend off, the people on the project have probably been working almost continuously ever since Phoenix landed. If they take 2 days off out of 90 its not the end of the world.

  • Re:incredible (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 05, 2008 @03:50AM (#24064635)

    The actual timing of that option was after the Voyager program was funded for two 4 year missions (as Mariner 10 and 11). The engineers ensured that the spacecraft were capable of 12 years missions so that the Grand Tour would be an option. The original Grand Tour option was 4 spacecraft with 2 Jupiter-Saturn-Titan flybys and 2 gas giant-ice giant tours (with one potentially being sent directly to Pluto). This was rejected for funding issues (along with the NERVA program) in favor of fully funding the Viking program. The Voyager program after much public outcry ended up with 2 cheaper probes to flyby Jupiter and Saturn with special emphasis on studying Titan. After Voyager 1 survived its cross plane maneuver and flyby of Titan, permission was granted to perform a Grand Tour with Voyager 2.

  • Re:what the hell? (Score:3, Informative)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @04:33AM (#24064715) Homepage Journal

    So you're expecting the Martians to tag all the cameras and then tip over the probe soonish?

    In three months time the probe will be underneath the north polar ice cap and the mission will be over. Additionally the TEGA instrument has developed a wiring fault and may become totally unusable soon. []

    Not everyone is as worked up over Phoenix as you seem to be.

    I agree. This whole space exploration thing has become quite passe.

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