Cassini Completes Second Venus Flyby
June 24, 1999
The Cassini spacecraft, marking the 617th day of its voyage to Saturn, today successfully completed its second flyby of the planet Venus, once again on time and on target.
As planned, Cassini came within 600 kilometers (about 370 miles) of the planet at 1:30 p.m. Pacific time, with Venus' gravity giving the spacecraft a boost in speed to help it reach Saturn more than 1 billion kilometers away. The spacecraft, launched on its voyage October 15, 1997, remains in excellent condition as it travels its nearly seven-year trajectory to Saturn. Most of Cassini's scientific instruments were set to make observations during the Venus flyby. Scientific data from the flyby will transmitted to Earth over coming
Four flybys of planets -- two of Venus and one each of Earth and Jupiter -- give Cassini the speed it needs to reach Saturn. Cassini first flew past Venus on April 26, 1998 at a distance of 284 kilometers (about 176 miles). Today's Venus flyby will be followed by a 1,166-kilometer (724-mile) flyby of Earth on August 18 (August 17 Pacific time at 8:28 p.m. PDT), then it's on to Jupiter for a December 30, 2000 flyby. The giant planet's gravity will bend Cassini's flight path to put it on course for arrival into orbit around Saturn on July 1, 2004.
Cassini's mission is to study the ringed planet, its magnetic and radiation environment, moons and rings for four years. Cassini will also deliver the European Space Agency's Huygens probe to parachute to the surface of Saturn's moon Titan. Titan is of special interest partly because of its many Earthlike characteristics, including a mostly nitrogen atmosphere and the presence of organic molecules in the atmosphere and on its surface. Lakes or seas of ethane and methane may exist on its surface. The Cassini mission is a joint effort of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The mission is managed and the Cassini spacecraft built and operated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology.
Additional information about Cassini-Huygens is online at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov.
Cassini will begin orbiting Saturn on July 1, 2004, and release its piggybacked Huygens probe about six months later for descent through the thick atmosphere of the moon Titan. Cassini-Huygens is a cooperative mission of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.