Huygens takes on Titan
A great day in space exploration: today the Huygens probe successfully landed on the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, and has already sent back pictures during the descent.
After the Beagle 2 debacle a year ago, it’s good to see how well the Cassini-Huygens project has been carried through. The Cassini probe will continue orbiting Saturn, after releasing Huygens three weeks ago, to fall to the Titan surface today. The way they’re talking, the probe was not expected to survive the impact with the surface, but seems to have done so, and kept broadcasting for another half-hour at least, before going over the radio horizon, never to be heard from again.
The European Space Agency has masses of data to sort through, years of work ahead, but the scientists seem to be having fun. After looking at impact force measurements, one has just described the Titan hydrocarbon surface’s consistency as like crème brûlée. – gooey, but with a brittle crust. How poetic.