Tech History

Huygens lands on Saturn

Huygens probe dsc03686.jpg

Huygens was an atmospheric entry probe that landed successfully on Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005. Built and operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), it was part of the Cassini–Huygens mission and became the first spacecraft ever to land on Titan and the furthest landing from Earth a spacecraft has ever made. The probe was named after the Dutch 17th-century astronomer Christiaan Huygens, who discovered Titan in 1655.

In situ image of Titan’s surface from Huygens—the first images from a non-Earth planetary surface beyond Mars and Venus (Left and right images have different image processing). Globules (probably made of water ice) 10–15 cm in size lie above darker, finer-grained substrate in a variable spatial distribution. Brightening of the upper left side of several rocks suggests solar illumination from that direction, implying a southerly view, which agrees with preliminary evidence from other data sets. A region with a relatively low number of rocks lies between clusters of rocks in the foreground and the background and matches the general orientation of channel-like features in the low-altitude images taken from under 7km altitude.

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