INFO 33-1997: Huygens is alive and well, in space
24 October 1997Tests carried out on 23 october 1997, by ESA's Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt,Germany, confirm that ESA's Huygens probe is in excellent condition, following its launch on 15 October aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The dual Cassini-Huygens mission is now en route for Saturn, by way of Venus. In 2004, Huygens will plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn's enigmatic moon Titan.
"It all went very smoothly," said Jonh Dodsworth, ESOC's flight operations Director, "We had the option to continue checks on 26 October in case of difficulty, but we don't need to. That's good news."
ESOC established connection with the Huygens probe at 08:09 UT on 23 October, using NASA's link to Cassini. Thanks to ESOC's new flight operations system, engineers and scientists responsible for the mission could check quite quickly that Huygens is alive and well in all respects.
ESA's project management team, and representatives of the contractors who built Huygens, were able to report that the engineering system and subsystems are all performing nominally. The principal investigators from Europe and the USA, in charge of the six instruments on Huygens, were also present for the tests. Each experiment was checked for functionality:
- HASI to analyse Titan's atmosphere and weather
- DWE to measure wind speeds during the descent
- GCMS to analyse chemical compounds on Titan
- ACP to break down aerosols for chemical analysis
- DISR to produce images and spectra of Titan
- SSP to determine the nature of Titan's surface.
"Six experiments, six green lights," said Jean-Pierre Lebreton, ESA's project scientist.
The project manager for Huygens is Hamid Hassan. In Darmstadt he too declared himself pleased with the check-out of the Huygens systems, subsystems and instruments.
"We will now let Huygens go back to sleep, except for the planned six monthly checkouts" Hassan said. "The probe will remain in that condition for the seven-year journey to Saturn. But we now have every reason to expect a successful outcome to this unprecedented mission."