Visit to the Lord of the Rings

Probe Cassini on tour in the Saturn system

Saturn with rings and moons NASA
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It has been 20 years since the first three space probes visited the outer solar system and for the first time transmitted sensational images of Saturn and its system. Now another spacecraft is visiting the Lord of the Rings. After nearly seven years of travel and 3.5 billion kilometers traveled, the Cassini space probe and the "Huygens" titanium probe that "piggybacked" are now reaching their destination: the Saturn.

It is more than 1.4 billion kilometers from Earth, a tiny point in the vast expanses of space, but the Ring Planet Saturn fascinates humanity from its earliest beginnings to today. Like no other planet, the gas giant, surrounded by rings and a whole herd of moons, awakens the curiosity of astronomers, planetary researchers, and sky gazers of all kinds.

On July 1, 2004, they are orbiting the enigmatic gas giant and its "royal state" of moons and rings. Now begins the most critical phase of her approach: using a braking maneuver, she has to reduce her airspeed so that she can be captured by the attraction of Saturn. For 96 minutes, the main engines of the probe must fire for it.

If everything goes according to plan, Cassini will fly through the gap between the F and G rings and swing into the first orbit around the ring planet. The trajectory scientists have used all available information about the density and material of the rings to find the safest and best course for this risky passage.

In order to best protect the sensitive instruments of the probe, it is aligned so that the bowl-shaped high-performance antenna can serve as a shield against smaller rocks. Although this approach is not without risk, it will provide the probe with a unique opportunity to closely examine the rings and the planet itself - as close as now, Cassini will not come back to Saturn during their entire mission ... ad

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Nadja Podbregar
As of: 25.06.2004