NASA's Deep Space Network tracking station in Madrid, Spain, acquired a signal at about 4:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (7:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time). As anticipated, the spacecraft came within 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) of Titan's surface.
As with the last flyby, a major goal of this flyby is to measure the thickness of Titan's atmosphere. The information gathered will help determine whether Cassini can safely get closer to Titan on subsequent flybys, and will also be used to verify that Huygens atmosphere models are correct.
Titan is a prime target of the Cassini-Huygens mission because it is the only moon in our solar system with a thick smoggy atmosphere. The Huygens probe, built and operated by the European Space Agency, is attached to Cassini. After its Christmas Eve release, it will descend through Titan's atmosphere on Jan. 14, 2005, as it collects atmospheric data down to the surface.
On Wednesday morning, Cassini will fly by Saturn's icy moon Dione at a distance of 72,500 kilometers (45,000 miles). Images and science results from both flybys will be presented at a news conference that will take place on Thursday, Dec. 16, at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco. Reporters who wish to call in should call Carolina Martinez in advance at (818) 354-9382.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of
NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space
Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the
California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the
Cassini mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate,
Washington, D.C. JPL designed, developed and assembled the
Cassini orbiter. The European Space Agency built and
managed the development of the Huygens probe and is in
charge of the probe operations. The Italian Space Agency
provided the high-gain antenna, much of the radio system and
elements of several of Cassini's science instruments.
News Media ContactCarolina Martinez (818) 354-9382
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.