To Open The Sky
The Front Pages of Christopher P. Winter
It Arrives This Year
A cast of thousands! Twenty-one years in the making! Nearly cancelled twice! Rated "Pu" by the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice! The NASA/ESA mission named for a 16th-century Italian scientist swings into high gear this year. In July — after travelling 2 billion miles and over six years since launch on 15 October 1997 — the probe Cassini finally reaches its goal, the giant planet Saturn.
Right now, in early 2004, three Mars missions deservedly command the spotlight. But Cassini will have its day, and it promises to return unique scientific results. It will be the first probe to orbit Saturn. Also, it will drop the Huygens lander into the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Titan is the only moon in this solar system with an appreciable atmosphere, a methane-ammonia atmosphere, and conditions there will be unlike anything we have seen so far.
I plan to follow the mission and post updates here periodically. Please stay tuned.
Meanwhile, go to the source for the best information:
Oh, about that "Pu" rating... The FCPJ objected strenuously to the fact that Cassini is powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) containing plutonium (chemical symbol Pu). At the time of launch, I wrote a six-part essay to set forth a contrary opinion. Find its link below. There have undoubtedly been changes in mission timelines, in the scientific personnel I list, in other details. Also, the HTML (especially the styling) seems primitive. Nevertheless, I present it with its original content largely unchanged, and with very much the same "look & feel".