Professor John Zarnecki
News that the international NASA/ESA Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn has been extended by two years means more opportunity for space scientists at The Open University. Cassini's mission originally had been scheduled to end in July 2008.
The historic spacecraft's stunning discoveries and images have revolutionized our knowledge of Saturn and its moons.
Cassini-Huygens' observations of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, have given scientists a glimpse of what Earth might have been like before life evolved. They now believe Titan possesses many parallels to Earth, including lakes, rivers, channels, dunes, rain, snow, clouds, mountains and possibly volcanoes – but made out of unfamiliar materials.
Dr Simon Green, principal investigator on the Cosmic Dust Analyser instrument on Cassini welcomes the opportunity to further study the interaction between Saturn’s rings and moon systems. “This extra time will give us the chance to make direct sampling of the Moon Enceladus where we’ve already discovered water particles with impurities.”
Based on findings from Cassini, scientists think liquid water may be just beneath the surface of Enceladus. That's why the small moon, only one-tenth the size of Titan and one-seventh the size of Earth's moon, is one of the highest-priority targets for the extended mission.