Huygens: 'Ground Truth' from An Alien Moon
|Titan touchdown. Click here for video details and downloads. Credit: Huygens descent video: NASA/ESA/University of Arizona/E. Karkoschka; Probe separation animation: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Probe landing animation: ESA|
Thoughts on Huygens
Today the Huygens probe sits silently on the frigid surface of Titan, its mission concluded mere hours after touchdown, while the Cassini spacecraft continues its exploration of Titan from above as part of its mission to learn more about Saturn and its moons. Now in its dramatic final year, the spacecraft's own journey will conclude on 15 September with a fateful plunge into Saturn's atmosphere.
With the mission heading into its home stretch, Cassini team members and NASA leaders look back fondly on the significance of Huygens.
"The Huygens descent and landing represented a major breakthrough in our exploration of Titan as well as the first soft landing on an outer-planet moon. It completely changed our understanding of this haze-covered ocean world."
– Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
"The Huygens images were everything our images from orbit were not. Instead of the hazy, sinuous features that we could only guess were streams and drainage channels, here was incontrovertible evidence that at some point in Titan's history – and perhaps even now – there were flowing liquid hydrocarbons on the surface. Huygens' images became a Rosetta stone for helping us interpret our subsequent findings on Titan."
– Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead at Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado
"Cassini and Huygens have shown us that Titan is an amazing world with a landscape that mimics Earth in many ways. During its descent, the Huygens probe captured views that demonstrated an entirely new dimension to that comparison and highlights that there is so much more we have yet to discover. For me, Huygens has emphasized why it is so important that we continue to explore Titan."
– Alex Hayes, a Cassini scientist at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
"Twelve years ago, a small probe touched down on an orangish, alien world in the outer solar system, marking humankind's most distant landing to date. Studying Titan helps us tease out the potential of habitability of this tiny world and better understand the chemistry of the early Earth."
– Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters, Washington
This article was originally published on the NASA JPL website.
Notes for editors
A collection of Huygens' top science findings can be found here.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA, and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.
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