Roughly 20 years ago the Cassini orbiter launched from Cape Canaveral for a seven year journey to the ringed planet Saturn. Towing with it was the Huygens probe, built and maintained by the European Space agency. On its journey to Saturn the orbiter flew by Venus through the asteroid belt, past Jupiter with its giant red eye, before finally arriving at Saturn. After spending countless years investigating Saturn and its moons, today is the culmination of that journey as Cassini begins its death orbit down into Saturn.
Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Cassini was a triumph of science and engineering, sending back amazing views and increasing the state of knowledge in astronomy. Cassini discovered two previously unknown moons orbiting Saturn (bringing Saturn’s total known moon count to 60), discovered ice plumes from Enceladus (another Saturn moon) via magnetometer, and detached and sent the Huygens probe down to the surface of Titan (Saturn’s largest moon). The landing of Huygens on Titan is the first and only landing on the surface of a world in the outer solar system.
Cassini orbiter sees Earth from Saturn (Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Theoretical schematic of the Mars One habitat,
Photo Credit: Mars One
Maybe you have heard about it, or maybe you haven’t, but Man… Man is headed to Mars! …. or at least Man is going to try!
In recent years space expeditions have shifted focus towards reaching the red planet. Of the different campaigns to travel to Mars, Mars One has probably gotten the most press recently. As stated on their site, Mars One’s goal is to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. Crews of four will depart every two years, starting in 2024, with a first unmanned mission in 2018.
For good or bad, Mars One is taking the Colonialism Era approach. Send out explorers without the guarantee of return and see what happens. And despite the obvious one-way ticket approach of their endeavor, there are an abundant source of participants ready to step up for this, literally and figuratively, ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity. Mars One had over 200,000 applicants, and recently whittled that field down to a little over a thousand. Over the next few years these individuals will undergo training that should in theory prepare them for one of the most daunting missions mankind has ever undertaken.