Two free public programs in Pasadena next week will offer a preview of the first mission to orbit Saturn.
Robert Mitchell, NASA's program manager for the international Cassini-Huygens mission, will show pictures and describe the adventure on Thursday evening, March 20, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and on Friday evening, March 21, at Pasadena City College.
Cassini-Huygens is running the final leg of its long journey to reach Saturn on July 1, 2004. It passed Jupiter two years ago and has also swung near Venus and Earth since its launch in 1997. The main Cassini spacecraft will examine Saturn's windy atmosphere, dramatic rings, diverse moons and wrap-around magnetic environment while orbiting the planet for four years. Early in the orbital tour, it will release a smaller probe, Huygens, to parachute through the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Huygens will take pictures and in-place measurements of Titan's dense, nitrogen-rich atmosphere, which bears similarities to the primordial atmosphere of Earth.
Mitchell will also discuss the human efforts making the mission possible. Approximately 500 people at JPL and partner organizations are currently working on it. Cassini-Huygens is a cooperative endeavor of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.
Mitchell has managed Cassini since 1998 and managed NASA's Galileo mission to Jupiter prior to that. He joined JPL in 1965. He has worked on spacecraft trajectory design, mission design, and navigation for Mariner and Viking missions to Mars, and for Galileo.
Both lectures will begin at 7 p.m. Seating is first-come, first-served. The Thursday lecture will be in JPL's von Karman Auditorium. JPL is at 4800 Oak Grove Dr., off the Oak Grove Drive exit of the 210 (Foothill) Freeway. The Friday lecture will be in Pasadena City College's Vosloh Forum, 1570 E. Colorado Blvd. For more information, call
(818) 354-0112. Thursday's lecture will be webcast live and available afterwards at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/events/lectures/mar03.html .