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Post Info TOPIC: Epic Landing on Saturn's Moon Titan Remembered 10 Years Later


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Epic Landing on Saturn's Moon Titan Remembered 10 Years Later

by Mike Wall

Ten years ago today (Jan. 14), humanity got its first up-close look at a bizarre, frigid moon that may be capable of supporting life as we know it.

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Huygens probe touched down on the surface of Saturn's huge moon Titan on Jan. 14, 2005, three weeks after being deployed from its mothership, NASA's Cassini spacecraft. For the first time ever, an emissary from Earth had landed softly on a world in the outer solar system.

"I distinctly recall the dreamy feeling of being in one universe one moment and in another universe the next," Cassini imaging team leader Carolyn Porco wrote of Huygens' landing in a blog post today. "But it was no dream. We had, without doubt, journeyed to Titan, 10 times farther from the sun than the Earth, and touched it. The solar system suddenly seemed a very much smaller place."

Cassini reached the Saturn system in July 2004 and thus had already observed Titan by the time Huygens touched down. But the lander beamed home information impossible to obtain from afar, a data haul that began during Huygens' two-and-a-half-hour descent through the moon's thick atmosphere.

"The images taken by the falling probe and released to the public that night were everything our images from orbit were not: unfiltered, exquisitely detailed views of the moon's surface and unambiguous in their account," Porco wrote.

Those images revealed what appeared to be a shoreline, as well as snaking channels that had obviously been carved by flowing liquid, she added. But that liquid was not water; Titan has a hydrocarbon-based weather system.





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