Artist Conception of Cassini Saturn Orbit Insertion
Illustration of Cassini at Saturn. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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"Countdown to Launch: The Cassini Mission to Saturn" will be the theme for a free public lecture at 7 p.m. Thursday, September 18, in JPL's von Karman Auditorium. Seating is limited and will be on a first come, first-served basis.

The lecture will be presented by Dr. Ellis Miner, science manager of the Cassini mission. Dr. Miner has been a team member for the infrared science investigations carried aboard the Mariner 6 and 7 flybys of Mars, the Mariner 9 orbiter of Mars, the Mariner 10 flybys of Venus and Mercury, the Viking 1 and 2 orbiters of Mars, and the Voyager 1 and 2 flybys of Jupiter. He served as the assistant project scientist for the Voyager project during planning, execution and analysis of the Voyager 1 and 2 missions to Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and beyond.

Cassini, the most sophisticated planetary spacecraft ever built, is scheduled to launch this October aboard a Titan IVB/Centaur rocket from Cape Canaveral, FL. Using a technique called gravity-assist, Cassini will slingshot twice around Venus and once around Earth and Jupiter to accumulate enough momentum to propel it to Saturn, with a scheduled arrival date of July 1, 2004.

At Saturn, Cassini will deploy the European Space Agency's Huygens Probe into the depths of the large moon Titan. The size of a small planet, Titan contains a chemically complex atmosphere of nitrogen and hydrocarbons, similar to Earth's early atmosphere. Scientists will use data returned by Huygens to gain insight into the creation of Titan, as well as a glimpse into the early history of Earth.

Cassini's 27 scientific investigations will do an in-depth four-year orbital study of the Saturnian system, following the Voyager 1 and 2 flybys in 1980 and 1981, which provided a first close examination of the giant planet. Nine interdisciplinary investigations utilize data from two or more instruments to complete their scientific studies. Cassini's scientific objectives address better understanding of Saturn's interior, atmosphere, rings, moons and magnetosphere.

Cassini was built and is managed for NASA by JPL. The European Space Agency (ESA) is contributing the Huygens Probe. The high-gain antenna and elements of several of Cassini's science instruments are being provided by the Italian Space Agency (ASI). JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

This lecture is part of the von Karman Lecture Series held monthly by the JPL Public Information Office. A web site on the lecture series is located at For directions and other information, call the Public Information Office at (818) 354-5011.

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