Feeds

Huygens probe gets clean bill of health

Fit and ready for Titan

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The European Space Agency's Huygens probe, carried millions of miles to Saturn on board the NASA Cassini space craft, has completed its final series of checks before separation. The check up, its sixteenth, found the probe in good health, according to the ESA.

The Huygens probe will detach from Cassini on Christmas day, and drop into orbit around Titan, Saturn's biggest moon. On 15 January 2005 it will begin its descent into Titan's atmosphere, an event that might even be visible from Earth, provided you have a decent telescope, and are in the right place at the time.

Huygens en route to Titan's surface Image: ESA

The probe has been designed to reveal more about the surface of Titan. Shrouded in its thick, cloudy atmosphere, the surface of the moon has been a mystery until very recently. Detailed radar images captured by Cassini as it swung past the rocky world delighted astronomers, but did not reveal much about the composition of the landscape.

In October, as scientists counted down to Cassini's closest approach to Titan, Professor John Zarnecki from the Open University, lead scientist for the Science Surface Package on the Huygens Probe, said his team is looking forward to finding out what kind of surface is under all the smog. "In other words we want to know if our instruments will land with a splash or a thud!"

The Huygens probe is named for Christiaan Huygens, the Dutch astronomer who discovered the moon. It measures 2.7 metres across and is built like a shellfish: its hard shell designed to protect its delicate instruments from the heat of entry into the atmosphere.

There are two parts to the probe - the entry assembly module and the descent module. The former carries the thermal protection, and the controls to manoeuvre the craft after it separates from Cassini. The descent module contains the scientific instruments. Three parachutes will slow the craft on the way to the surface. ®

Related stories

Titan hangs on to its secrets
Cassini glimpses Titan's face
Cassini approaches Titanic flyby

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.