Huygens Probe

Mass: 701 lbs.
Major Instruments:
Huygens Atmospheric Structure Instrument, Doppler Wind Experiment, Descent Imager, Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer, Aerosol Collector, Surface Science Package
Program Managers: European Space Agency, Italian Space Agency, NASA
Launched: October 15, 1997, aboard a Titan IV-B from Launch Complex 40, Cape Canaveral AFS
Deployed at Titan: Spacecraft separation, December 25, 2004; landing, January 14, 2005
Manufacturer: Thales Alenia Space (then Aerospatiale)
Model Scale: Actual size

The Huygens Probe was part of the joint ESA-NASA Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and its moon, Titan. Huygens was carried to the Saturnian system aboard the Cassini spacecraft, which continued to study Saturn after launching Huygens into the dense atmosphere of Titan. The main Huygens mission, a parachute descent through Titan's atmosphere, revealed a dense cloud atmosphere at the surface, about 20 kilometers thick, and a muddy landing sight featuring chunks of water ice swimming in a haze of methane. Titan's weather is believed to feature torrential downpours and flash flooding, interspersed with decades or centuries of drought; surface features include boulder fields, sand or clay swamps and numerous hydrocarbon lakes and seas.

On loan from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

About Christiaan Huygens
Christiaan Huygens discovered Saturn's moon Titan in 1665; he gives the Hyugens Probe its name. Christiaan was born in the Netherlands in 1629; during his life, he studied science, math, and astronomy. He explored Saturn with a telescope that he built by himself. In 1997, the European Space Agency (ESA) named their Titan probe after Huygens. Huygens wrote a book called Cosmotheros about what life would be like on other planets and wrote that life needed water, though water on other worlds might be different from water on Earth. As the Huygens mission explored Titan, it discovered seas of liquid natural gas, which were like the lakes Huygens described in his book. Could there be life in the seas of Titan?



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