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'We Now Have Saturn in Our Sights'
'We Now Have Saturn in Our Sights'
1 Nov 2002
(Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Note: The weekly 'Cassini Significant Events' report is posted at the end of this news release.

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November 1, 2002

A successful test of the camera on NASA's Cassini spacecraft has produced images of Saturn 20 months before the spacecraft arrives at that planet.

A color composite of the Saturn test images is available online from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at and from the Cassini imaging team's University of Arizona site at The image shows the shadow of the planet falling across its famous rings and includes Saturn's largest moon, Titan.

The planet was 285 million kilometers (177 million miles) from the spacecraft when the images were taken last week, nearly twice the distance between Earth and the Sun.

"Cassini has sighted the ringed planet looking distant, mysterious and serene," said Dr. Carolyn Porco, a planetary scentist at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., and leader of the science team using the Cassini camera. "Our anticipation has been building for years, so it's good to know our destination is in view."

Dr. Dennis Matson, Cassini project scientist at JPL in Pasadena, Calif., said, "This is an emotional event for the mission. We now have Saturn in our sights."

Cassini camera-team member Dr. Alfred McEwen at the University of Arizona, Tucson, added, "Seeing the picture makes our science-planning work suddenly seem more real. Now we can see Saturn and we'll watch it get bigger as a visual cue that we're approaching fast. It's good to see the camera is working well."

Fourteen camera-team scientists selected by NASA will use the camera to investigate many features of Saturn, its moons and its rings. Cassini will begin a four-year prime mission in orbit around Saturn when it arrives on July 1, 2004. It will release a piggybacked probe, Huygens, to descend through the thick atmosphere of Titan on Jan. 14, 2005.

Cassini-Huygens is a cooperative mission of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. Additional information about it is available online at JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.

Cassini Significant Events for 10/24/02 - 10/30/02

The most recent spacecraft telemetry was acquired from the Goldstone tracking station on Wednesday, October 30. The Cassini spacecraft is in an excellent state of health and is operating normally. Information on the present position and speed of the Cassini spacecraft may be found on the "Present Position" web page.

On board activities this week included clearing of the ACS high water marks, and an autonomous Solid State Recorder Memory Load Partition repair. Additional instrument activities included Radio and Plasma Wave Science High Frequency Receiver calibrations and a high rate cyclic, and an upload of new RADAR Flight Software (FSW). The existing version of the flight software will be maintained on board until after a checkout is performed in early November. After this activity the old version will be overwritten with the new version, ensuring that multiple copies of the newest FSW are available to the instrument.

The 29th session of the Cassini Project Science Group meeting concluded this week. Principal investigators, co-investigators, operations technical leads, graduate students, and interested members of the flight team attended various working groups, team meetings, plenary sessions, demonstrations and training sessions over a 5-day period.

The Navigation Ancillary Information Facility hosted a two day Spacecraft, Planet, Instruments, C-matrix, and Events kernels (SPICE) tutorial workshop with participants from Cassini, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Odyssey, Mars Express, Deep Impact, Mars Exploration Rover, Messenger, Space Infrared Telescope Facility, and LMA. SPICE is the ancillary information system that provides access to scientists and engineers for spacecraft orbit, attitude and similar information needed to determine observation geometry used in planning and analyzing space science observations.

A delivery coordination meeting was held for Mission Sequence Subsystem version D8.0.4 software. Changes included updates to SSR Management Tool, SEQGEN and SEG, and a small change to the PC-version of the Science Opportunity Analyzer tool.

The topic at this week's Mission Planning forum dealt with DSN requirements - what is the process for defining/enforcing them, how are we performing so far vs. our DSN requirements, and what are the proposed updates for the next DSN allocation board meeting? Also discussed was a proposed constraint on waypoints. Can the waypoint strategy be waived on some occasions?

Mission Assurance conducted a Risk Management Quarterly Team Meeting this week. Risks associated with Saturn Tour Operations were addressed and dispositioned. Action items to refine risk descriptions were assigned as needed. The next Quarterly Meeting will be conducted in January 2003, to discuss risks to Saturn Orbit Insertion.

A meeting was conducted between Mission Assurance and Section 319 Problem Reporting System (PRS) representatives. The PRS group has been working on a new unified problem reporting system, to replace the current institutional one. Features of the new system were demonstrated and the possibility of migrating Cassini to the new system was discussed. Cassini is considering a transition to the new PRS to assist developers with actual user feedback and at the same time, benefit from some of the new functionality and reporting features.

Cassini is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Cassini mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.

Cassini Outreach
Cassini Mission to Saturn and Titan
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California Institute of Technology
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Last Updated: 1 Nov 2002