NASA’s Mars Pathfinder Mission in 1997 was quite a success and this was so despite it being very frugal – it cost less than Waterworld, a Kevin Costner film. It is now on a bigger mission, however the Cassini Huygens project, which was in development for about a decade now, is over 10 times as expensive. Cassini Huygens, a NASA flagship mission in collaboration with the European Space Agency, is headed to Saturn to study the planet and its moons, according to The Indian Express. Here are interesting facts about the planet Saturn mission of NASA:
1. The mission would be powered by a plutonium-fuelled radioactive thermal generator as Saturn is very far away. The electric power needed for the mission would be less than that needed for a room air conditioner — and equal to eight 100-Watt light bulbs, as per IE.
2. Cassini would carry the Huygens probe that would attempt to land on Titan– one of the Solar System’s most interesting and Earthlike moons.
3. Cassini has traveled 2 billion miles to reach Saturn in seven years as it flew by Venus, Earth and Jupiter.
4. While Mars and Earth and share similarities, Saturn is completely different. There is no solid surface to walk on Saturn. The planet has a metallic core, overlain with liquid hydrogen. It is made up of gas, and could theoretically float on water. Its density is 30% lower than that of water, as per IE.
5. Saturn has 62 moons. The largest of those, Titan, is larger than the planet Mercury. The storms on Saturn are about 10 times stronger at 1,200 miles/hr. Sometimes the storms produce lightning every 1/10th of a second.
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6. Interestingly, 1 year on Saturn = 29 years on Earth. You will feel much younger in Saturn, as per IE.
7. The spacecraft, which completed about 300 orbits around Saturn, discovered many new things like six new moons and two underground oceans on different moons. There are four seasons on Saturn same like the Earth, the report noted.
8. Titan’s atmosphere is primarily nitrogen, with traces of methane. Because Earth’s methane has biogenic sources, the question is whether the methane on Titan is related to life?
9. The Huygens probe found that Titan has a temperature of about 180C which is colder than Antarctica.
10. The Cassini-Huygens mission found strong evidence of cryovolcanism — a volcano where water ice and a mix of hydrocarbons is spewed into Titan’s thick atmosphere, as per IE report.