The Cassini spacecraft, with the Huygens probe piggy-backed upon it, launched October 15, 1997. After a complex series of gravity assists (two off of Venus, one off Earth, and one off Jupiter), the spacecraft arrived at its destination on June 30, 2004. To commemorate ten years in Saturn orbit, NASA’s JPL has released this video looking back at the moment of Saturn Orbit Insertion (SOI):
The team also came up with their top ten list of discoveries made by the Cassini-Huygens mission, including Huygen’s landing on Titan, the plumes of Enceladus, the dynamic nature of Saturn’s rings, and more. And for those just after eye candy, they also came up with a top more-than-ten list of Cassini imagery over the past decade. Check it out!
The piggybacked Huygens probe, operated by ESA, was pretty much passive at this point, still just hitching a lift. But that would soon change. I’ll write more on that around Christmas, the tenth anniversary of its release, and on January 14, the anniversary of its historic landing.