Cassini-Huygens was an uncrewed spacecraft sent to explore Saturn. It was made of 2 parts: Cassini and Huygens. NASA's Cassini orbited Saturn. ESA's Huygens landed on Saturn's moon Titan.
The spacecraft launched in 1997. 20 years later, in 2017 Cassini reached the end of its mission and crashed into the gas giant Saturn. This dramatic end was planned to prevent the craft from contaminating one of Saturn's moons.
The long length of the mission meant it could study Saturn across several seasons. In 2012, Cassini saw the massive 'Great White Spot' storm. This storm only takes place on Saturn every 30 years.
Cassini passed very close to Saturn. It even explored between the planet's surface and its inner ring. This let it collect scientific data and reveal new details about Saturn's complex ring system.
Huygens separated from Cassini, and landed on Titan in 2005. This was the first ever landing in the outer Solar System. Titan is the only known moon with a thick atmosphere. It is also the only place besides Earth in our Solar System with liquid rivers, lakes and seas on its surface.
Huygens touched down on the surface of Titan, on solid ground. The lander was designed to survive landing on solid ground or in an ocean. Huygens gathered data for a few hours in Titan's atmosphere, and for 90 minutes once it reached the surface. Photos from Titan showed pebbles of water ice and an orange hazy atmosphere.
The Cassini-Huygens mission:
- Saw geysers on the icy moon, Enceladus.
- Was the first mission to land on a world in the outer Solar System.
- Was the first mission to sample an extraterrestrial ocean.
- Discovered a storm at Saturn's South Pole.