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Cassini's Space Odyssey To Saturn 45

An anonymous reader writes in with this look at the amazingly successful Cassini mission and the discoveries it has made. Scientists says Cassini is helping them understand how our solar system developed. Of the astronomically profound discoveries it's made over a decade of circling, the startling hint this April of a new moon being formed in the rings of Saturn is merely the latest. Indeed, the spacecraft Cassini — which inserted itself into orbit around the giant gas planet in July, 2004 — has transmitted imagery and sensory data back to Earth that has given us a new understanding of our bejewelled neighbour three doors down. "It's one of the most successful (space) missions probably ever," says University of Toronto astrophysicist Hanno Rein, whose own work has been significantly informed by the tiny craft's output.
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Cassini's Space Odyssey To Saturn

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  • Flagship Missions (Score:5, Informative)

    by mbone ( 558574 ) on Sunday July 06, 2014 @05:52PM (#47395335)

    Viking, Voyager, Galileo, Cassini - these were the so called "Flagship" missions - big, envelope-pushing missions intended to substantially advance our knowledge of the solar system. (MSL is really another, but Mars is special for NASA and so they don't call it that.) They have somewhat fallen out of favor, as they are very expensive and prone to delays and overruns, but it is hard to see how there can be substantial advances, particularly in the outer solar system, without them.

    The next mission of this class will, Congress willing, be the Europa-clipper, which is slowly getting to the AO stage []. I can hardly wait.

  • Titian Hero (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday July 06, 2014 @09:43PM (#47396509) Journal

    The man who saved the Huygens lander:

    "...Smeds was able to confirm the existence of the flaw only after pushing through an extensive series of tests that was initially rejected by mission managers as unnecessary.

    Smeds confirmed the existence of the fatal software flaw in the Probe Support Avionics (PSA), mounted onboard Cassini, in a series of tests conducted in February 2000...

    "They said it was too complex," says Smeds, adding, "But then I started to investigate the equipment available at JPL's ground stations..." []

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.