SPC Report May 2007
23 May 2007 09:30The performance of the Cassini Orbiter is nominal and preparing for mission extension, which is expected to be announced by NASA in early summer.
The final presentation of the Huygens VLBI activities took place at ESTEC on 8 February. The results concerning the Huygens trajectory are excellent. The trajectory indicates some meridional drift of the probe which has yet to be explained. Large interest in the new demonstrated capability for spacecraft tracking was expressed by TEC and TOS. It is gratifying that this project ended up in providing a key contribution to the Huygens mission and its science return and at the same time opened new windows for future missions.
All expected data have now been delivered to the Huygens Archive. Although it took a few months more than originally planned, the archive now contains the best and most useful products for the science community.
ESA, the International Committee for Space Research (COSPAR) and NASA have decided to honour Professor Hubert Curien's contribution to European space research by naming the Huygens landing site on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, after him.
New images taken by the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) in October 2006 revealed an odd, six-sided, honeycomb-shaped feature circling the entire north pole of Saturn. Such a shape has never been seen on any other planet. The hexagon is nearly 25 000 kilometres across and nearly four Earths could fit inside it. Its nature is not yet understood.
Three instruments on Cassini have found evidence for seas, most likely filled with liquid methane or ethane, in the high northern latitudes of Saturn's moon Titan. One such feature is larger than any of the Great Lakes of North America and is about the same size as several seas on Earth.
The radar instrument imaged several very dark features near Titan's north pole; VIMS also captured a view of the region, and work is in progress regarding the determination of the composition of the material contained within these features. The camera has also imaged irregular dark features.