Launched the 15th of October 1997, Cassini began its long journey to Saturn.
Cassini-Huygens is a massive spacecraft. It is carefully designed to brake into Saturn's orbit, as well as being loaded with an array of powerful instruments, cameras and sensors that will optimize the exploration of Saturn's vast, distant system.
No existing launch vehicle could have sent the 6000-kg craft directly to Saturn.
Cassini-Huygens has now looped around the Sun twice. On the first loop it flew close behind Venus in its solar orbit, where it "stole" some of the planet's orbital momentum on April 26, 1998. The next loop provided a second flyby of Venus, on June 24, 1999, and one of Earth, on August 18, 1999. Given these three "gravity assist" boosts, Cassini-Huygens finally had enough orbital momentum to reach the outer solar system. One last gravity assist from Jupiter on December 30, 2000 gave Cassini-Huygens the final thrust of energy it needed to project itself all the way to Saturn.
With its stunning rings and dozens of moons, Saturn is an intriguing planet for many reasons. The giant planet has a huge magnetosphere and a stormy atmosphere with winds clocked at about 1,800 kilometers per hour (1,118 mph) near the equator. These super-fast winds, combined with heat rising from within the planet's interior, cause the yellow and gold bands visible in its atmosphere.
Like Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, Saturn is a gas
giant. It is made mostly of hydrogen and helium.
Check this out if you're interested and want to learn more about the mission.
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