Cassini-Huygens Mission

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The Cassini-Huygens Mission was a spacecraft launched by NASA on October 15, 1997 to explore the planet Saturn and its moon, Titan. The payload was carried aloft by a Titan IV-B/Centaur launch vehicle. It consited of the main craft (Cassini) and a probe (Huygens). Partnering together to make the launch possible were NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Italian space agency Agenzia Spaziale Italiana. Over 17 countries worked in some capacity on the project.

The cost of the mission totalled about $3.27 billion, with the United States contributing $2.6 billion and European partners' contributing $660 million.

Aptly named, the Cassini-Huygens mission is named after two men who were pioneers with regard to discoveries about Saturn and its moons. The name of the main spacecraft was in reference to Giovanni Domenico Cassini, a famous Italian mathematician, astronomer, engineer, and astrologer from the 17th Century, credited with the discovery of the separation in Saturn's rings, now known as the Cassini division.

The name of the Huygens portion of the vehicle comes from Christiaan Huygens a Dutch mathematician, astronomer and physicist, who is creditied with the discovery of Saturn's moon Titan.

Facts and Figures


Launch Date: October 15, 1997
Dimensions: 6.7 meters (22 feet) high; 4 meters (13.1 feet) wide
Weight(fueled): 5,712 kilograms (12,593 pounds) including the Huygens probe, adapter, etc.
Weight(unfueled): 2,125 kilograms (4,685 pounds) orbiter alone
Orbiter science instruments: composite infrared spectrometer, imaging system, ultraviolet imaging spectrograph, visual and infrared mapping spectrometer, imaging radar, radio science, plasma spectrometer, cosmic dust analyzer, ion and neutral mass spectrometer, magnetometer, magnetospheric imaging instrument, radio and plasma wave science
Number of people who worked on some portion of Cassini-Huygens: More than 5,000
U.S. states in which Cassini work was carried out: 33