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Cassini−Huygens facts for kids

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Cassini Saturn Orbit Insertion.jpg
Artist's concept of Cassini's orbit insertion around Saturn
Mission type Cassini: Saturn orbiter
Huygens: Titan lander
Operator Cassini: NASA / JPL
Huygens: ESA / ASI
Mission duration
  • Overall:
    •  19 years, 335 days
    •  13 years, 76 days at Saturn
  • En route:
    •  6 years, 261 days
  • Prime mission:
    •  3 years
  • Extended missions:
    •  Equinox: 2 years, 62 days
    •  Solstice: 6 years, 205 days
    •  Finale: 4 months, 24 days
Spacecraft properties
Manufacturer Cassini: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Huygens: Thales Alenia Space
Launch mass 5,712 kg (12,593 lb)
Dry mass 2,523 kg (5,562 lb)
Power ~885 watts (BOL)
~670 watts (2010)
~663 watts (EOM/2017)
Start of mission
Launch date October 15, 1997, 08:43:00 (1997-10-15UTC08:43) UTC
Rocket Titan IV(401)B B-33
Launch site Cape Canaveral SLC-40
End of mission
Disposal Controlled entry into Saturn
Last contact September 15, 2017
  • 11:55:39 UTC X-band telemetry
  • 11:55:46 UTC S-band radio science
Orbital parameters
Reference system Kronocentric
Flyby of Venus (Gravity assist)
Closest approach April 26, 1998
Distance 283 km (176 mi)
Flyby of Venus (Gravity assist)
Closest approach June 24, 1999
Distance 623 km (387 mi)
Flyby of Earth-Moon system (Gravity assist)
Closest approach August 18, 1999, 03:28 UTC
Distance 1,171 km (728 mi)
Flyby of 2685 Masursky (Incidental)
Closest approach January 23, 2000
Distance 1,600,000 km (990,000 mi)
Flyby of Jupiter (Gravity assist)
Closest approach December 30, 2000
Distance 9,852,924 km (6,122,323 mi)
Saturn orbiter
Orbital insertion July 1, 2004, 02:48 UTC
Titan lander
Spacecraft component Huygens
Landing date January 14, 2005
Large Strategic Science Missions

Cassini–Huygens was a spacecraft, sent to study the planet Saturn, its rings, and its moons.

The mission was made by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and Italian Space Agency (ASI). The spacecraft had two main parts: the Cassini orbiter and the Huygens probe. It was launched on October 15, 1997 and entered into orbit around Saturn on July 1, 2004. It was the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn and the fourth one to visit Saturn (the others were fly-by's and did not enter orbit). The mission ended September 2017.

Cassini orbiter

The orbiter was named after the Italian-French astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini, who discovered some moons of Saturn. Most of the orbiter was designed and built by NASA, although ASI built and programmed some parts that talked to the Huygens probe. The spacecraft spent 13 years in orbit, sending back data. It visited many parts of the Saturn system until it was short of fuel. The Cassini–Huygens ended with a controlled crash into Saturn's atmosphere on September 15, 2017.

Huygens probe

ESA (European Space Agency) made the Huygens probe, named after the Dutch astronomer, mathematician, and physicist Christiaan Huygens who discovered Titan. On December 25 2004, the Huygens probe left the orbiter. A couple weeks later, the probe parachuted onto Saturn's largest moon Titan. Astronomers have wondered what the surface of Titan was like, since it was hidden under thick clouds. It is the only moon in our solar system with a thick atmosphere. The probe descended and sent pictures and other data back for scientists to study. After 90 minutes on the moon, the spacecraft stopped working, as expected. It is the farthest place we have ever landed a spacecraft. The pictures sent while parachuting showed rivers, probably of liquid methane. The surface is much too cold for water.

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