36th DPS Meeting, 8-12 November 2004
Session 1 Cassini at Saturn I
Special Session, Monday, November 8, 2004, 8:30-10:00am, Lewis

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[1.01] Cassini-Huygens in Orbit about Saturn

D. L. Matson (JPL), J.-P. Lebreton (ESTEC), L. J. Spilker (JPL)

The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft was successfully placed in an orbit about Saturn on June 30, 2004. Starting with our approach to Saturn, the instruments carried by the Orbiter have been very active since early 2004. As a result, all of the Cassini Orbiter investigations have scientific results to report. The excitement of discovery started with the flyby of Phoebe, a distant satellite and Cassini-Huygens first "contact" with the Saturnian system. Phoebe dazzled us with its morphology and variation of composition across its surface. Next, the spacecraft entered the magnetosphere at a time several days sooner than we expected. Close to three weeks after the Phoebe flyby, it passed through the rings, and fired its engine to place itself in orbit around Saturn. At that time a series of close-in observations were made that provided unique observations of the rings and of the planet magnetic field. The second ring passage followed hours later on the outbound leg of the trajectory. Within less than 30 hours after the second passage through the rings, Cassini-Huygens approached Titan to within 340,000 km. Distant observations of Titan gave us direct indication that Saturnís largest moon is much more complex than any other object that we have ever seen. The first and second low altitude flybys of Titan are planned on October 26 and 13th December, respectively at an altitude of 1200 km and 2800 km. The observations planned during the first two close flybys should give us our first high resolution good look at Titan. This paper presents an overview of the main mission events starting from Saturn approach until today. Highlights of the discoveries made so far are presented. The plans for the Huygens mission at Titan are described. Cassini-Huygens is a joint NASA-ESA program in cooperation with ASI.


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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 36 #4
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.