Cassini-Huygens is an unmanned spacecraft sent to Saturn to study Saturn and it’s Satellites on October 15th 1997 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. After travelling 6 years,261 days and 2.2 billion miles(3.5 billion Km), the probe finally arrives near Saturn on 1st July 2004.
Seventeen Countries were involved in designing and building the probe. This mission is supervised and managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory where it was assembled. Huygens , which was developed by European Space Agency was landed successfully on Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005. Huygens was the part of Cassini-Huygens mission which was separated from Cassini orbiter on December 25, 2004. It was landed on Titan on January 14,2005.
According to NASA, Cost of mission is as follows:
$1.422 billion pre-launch development, $710 million mission operations,$54 million tracking;$422 million launch vehicle; $500 million European Space Agency; $160 million Italian space agency Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI); total about $3.27 billion, of which U.S. contribution is $2.6 billion and European partners’ contribution $660 million.
As in it’s final journey, the Cassini closely passes by Saturn and collect some incredibly rich and valuable information regarding Saturn that was too risky to obtain in earlier days of its mission. The Spacecraft will make detailed maps of Saturn and it’s magnetic and gravity fields that helps to solve the mysteries of the planet. The data collected will improve our understanding of how much material is in the rings. Its cameras will take extraordinary ultra-close images of Saturn’s rings and clouds.
After 13 years in orbit around Saturn plus seven year journey from Earth, Cassini is now running low on the rocket fuel. After it’s successful first-ever dive through the narrow gap between Saturn and it’s rings on 26th April 2017, it was all around the news worldwide. Google also celebrated this event by its unique Doodle on 26th April.
In order to avoid the possibility of collision between Cassini and two of Saturn’s moon, namely Enceladus and Titan, NASA has decided to safely dispose the spacecraft in to Saturn’s Atmosphere to ensure that Cassini cannot contaminate any future studies of potential life on these moons.
After spending 20 years in space, NASA’s Cassini will undertake it’s final yet remarkable journey on 15th September 2017. No other mission in human history has ever explored so much around Saturn. On the final orbit, Cassini will plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere and will burn like a meteor, becoming part of the planet itself.