Artist illustration of Cassini at Saturn

A high-tech equivalent of a message in a bottle will carry the signatures of thousands of vicarious space explorers when it is launched aboard the Cassini mission to Saturn in 1997.

Volunteer members of The Planetary Society, Pasadena, CA, will help scan the signatures into digital form. The digital data will later be loaded onto a CD-ROM or other digital media, and then will be mounted onto the Cassini spacecraft during its final assembly at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, FL.

Earlier NASA spacecraft such as Viking, Magellan, and Galileo also carried thousands of signatures on other media, but Cassini will be the first to utilize modern digital storage technology. The disc is expected to hold about a million names and should survive well beyond the duration of Cassini's 11-year mission.

"The people who have already sent in signatures think this is a wonderful idea," said Suzanne Barber, administration manager of the Cassini Program. "School teachers love it - - it just seems to capture their students' imaginations, and it offers them a feeling of immortality to be able to send their names into space."

To participate, signatures should be sent on a plain postcard. Multiple signatures per postcard are acceptable. Names will be accepted until January 1, 1997, or until the CD-ROM is full. Postcards should be sent to: Suzanne Barber, MS 264- 441, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109.

Electronic mail transmittals cannot be accepted. Confirmation will be provided only to those who send their postcard along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

Cassini, scheduled for launch on October 6, 1997, is a joint mission of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). It will send an atmospheric probe called Huygens to the surface of Saturn's moon Titan. The Cassini spacecraft will orbit Saturn for four years, gathering data on Saturn, its rings, magnetic environment and moons.

The Cassini home page on the Internet offers a wide variety of information about the mission and the planet Saturn. It can be accessed at:

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