It was an epic and unforgettable moment!Ten years ago (January 14, 2005), humanity had its first opportunity to get a closer look at one of the most enigmatic moons in our Solar System, which scientists believe may be capable of sustaining life as we know it.
The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Huygens probe landed on the surface of Titan , Saturn’s massive moon, three weeks after it was undocked from its parent spacecraft, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. For the first time in history, a robotic emissary made by us humans has managed to land softly on a world in the outer Solar System. And you can watch the landing of the Huygens probe on the surface of Titan , right here on our website.
“I clearly remember the fantastic feeling that felt like a dream,” commented Carolyn Porco, Huygens Mission Image Team Leader. “But it wasn’t a dream. We had arrived on Titan, which is 10 times farther than the Sun, and we were touching its surface. The Solar System suddenly seemed like a much smaller place.”
The Cassini probe met the Saturn system in July 2004, and observations on Titan had already been made by it, but of course, only the Huygens probe in its descent would have the power to provide accurate data and unique observations, after all, it would go through the thick atmosphere, and land on the surface of this enigmatic world.
And now you will have the opportunity to watch the famous, intriguing and surreal descent of the Huygens probe on Titan . You will be able to observe what appears to be a coastline, its winding channels, which according to scientists, were carved by liquid flows. Prepare to descend into Titan’s atmosphere , and watch as the Huygens probe touches down on its surface .
But those 72 minutes of observations were enough to keep scientists busy to this day. Their measurements helped to unravel some mysteries about Titan , such as its atmosphere, which is made up mainly of nitrogen, in addition to information on temperature, pressure, density, etc… Furthermore, analyzes of Titan’s atmospheric methane did not find evidence that prove their biological origin.
While Huygens had finished its operations on Titanian soil, Cassini continued its surveys of Titan (as well as Saturn and other moons) over the course of more than 100 flybys, mapping much of Titan’s surface. Cassini also analyzed the depth of some of the moon’s largest hydrocarbon seas using radar, and found that Titan may even harbor an underground ocean of liquid water .
The Cassini-Huygens mission , which cost $3.2 billion, was a joint effort between NASA, ESA and the Italian Space Agency. Launched in 1997, Cassini is still operating, and should remain so until September 2017, when it will end its mission in a purposeful dive into the thick atmosphere of giant Saturn, and who knows, we’ll have another amazing video to enjoy later?!!
Source: Space / NASA
Images: NASA / ESA
Video: Meteorite Gallery / Narration: Wilson Paciullo