NEWS

Mission accomplished, and scientific community is ecstatic

How did the scientific community react to the success of the mission? With great enthusiasm. I received hundreds of congratulatory messages. It’s the first time I’ve seen so much enthusiasm. They believe that the mission will have substantial results. It’s not as though we simply went to Saturn. The Huygens probe (Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens discovered Titan in 1655) has completed its mission. Whatever it had to send, it sent. Now the data has to be analyzed. That will take some time. We already know that there is ice on the surface, which is very important. The Cassini orbiter (the Italian-French astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini discovered that Saturn had two main rings and another three moons) has another four years of mission left. It will revolve round Saturn and send back information on the planet, its rings, Titan and its other satellites. When its fuel runs out, it will sink toward Saturn and be destroyed in its atmosphere. Like the other giant planets (Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus), Saturn does not have a surface. They are balls of gas. But Titan has both gases and a surface. The spacecraft’s course (for us ignoramuses) raises eyebrows: It went from Earth to Venus then back to Earth again, before heading for Jupiter and then Saturn. It passed by giant masses because that caused it to accelerate. When it passed by something huge, the force of gravity gave it the speed to go on to the next body. Otherwise, there wouldn’t have been enough fuel for it to get to Saturn.