Cassini mission extended to 2010
15 April 2008NASA has extended the Cassini operations phase for the NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens mission for two more years. The mission, originally scheduled to end in July 2008, will continue studying Saturn, its environment and moons until 2010.
Plans for this period included 60 additional orbits of Saturn, 26 flybys of Titan, 4 of Enceladus, and one each for Dione, Rhea and Helene. Further observations of the moons may lay the groundwork for future missions to Titan and Enceladus.
Continued studies of Saturn’s ring system will include observations during the solar equinox for Saturn, in mid-2009, when the Sun will be in the plane of the rings. The extended observation period will also permit new regions of the complex magnetosphere of Saturn to be probed.
Cassini-Huygens is a joint NASA/ESA/ASI mission to explore Saturn, Titan and the other moons of the Saturnian system. The mission has two distinct elements: the Cassini orbiter and the Huygens probe, the latter provided by ESA.
The Huygens probe successfully completed its part of the mission on 14 January 2005 when it successfully entered Titan's upper atmosphere and descended under parachute to the surface. The descent phase lasted around 2 hours 27 minutes with a further 1 hour 10 minutes on the surface. Throughout this period data was collected from all instruments providing a detailed picture of Titan's atmosphere and surface.