Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Planetary roundup

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of Spirit's touchdown at Gusev Crater on Mars. Both rovers are still going strong, operating well beyond their 90 day primary missions.

Tonight, NOVA looks at their first year exploring the surface of Mars. Along with the significant discoveries that have been made concerning the presence of water.

Over around Saturn, Cassini has successfully released the European Space Agency's Hyugens probe. On January 14th, it will set down on the surface of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. This will be the first Earth spacecraft to land on another planet's moon.

If its parachute deploys correctly, Huygens should transmit data during its descent and landing for several hours. After that it will go quiet. Huygens does not have a transmitter powerful enough to reach Earth. It requires Cassini nearby to collect its uploaded data to relay back to us. After a few hours, Cassini will disappear from the Titan sky and continue on its amazing tour of Saturn.