Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
August 29, 1997
Explanation: Scheduled for launch in October, the Cassini spacecraft will spend seven years traveling through the Solar System -- its destination, Saturn. On arrival Cassini will begin an ambitious mission of exploration which will include parachuting a probe to the surface of Titan, Saturn's largest moon. This artist's vision offers a dramatic view of Cassini's engine firing during the SOI (Saturn Orbit Insertion) maneuver as it passes above the ring plane. Before the development of the telescope, the gas giant Saturn was the most distant planet known to astronomers. Ten times farther from the Sun it receives only 1 percent of the sunlight that Earth does. Operating in this faint sunlight, the Cassini spacecraft can't use solar arrays so, like other missions to the outer Solar System, it will be powered by radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs).
Authors & editors:
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.