Main Theme Exploration Mission of the Saturn System and its satellite Titan
Mission Responsibility NASA - ESA - ASI
Launch Date 1997
End of Mission 2017
Current phase Phase E
The Cassini-Huygens mission, which was developed in cooperation with NASA, ESA and ASI, is aimed at studying Saturn and its system of satellites, with particular attention to Titan, Saturn's satellite. The mission departed in October 1997 and after a seven-year-long journey, the Cassini orbiter (developed by NASA) and the Huygens spacecraft (developed by ESA) reached the Saturn system in July 2004. The Huygens spacecraft successfully landed on Titan's surface on 14 January 2005.
The CASSINI mission completed its first observation cycle of Saturn and its satellite system in June 2008, but the mission has been extended until 2012. The end of the mission is scheduled for 2017, limited only by the need to avoid the possible crash onto Titan's or Enceladus' surface because of the Planetary Protection requirements.
The study of Saturn and its satellite and ring system is a key element for decoding several primary processes in the evolution of a planetary system and in particular that of the most complex one of the gaseous planets. The Cassini mission with its scientific instruments is enabling us to deepen our knowledge of the composition, structure and physical properties and dynamics of the bodies that make up the Saturn system.
ASI is one of the partners of the Cassini mission: on the basis of a cooperation agreement with NASA it has developed for Cassini the high gain antenna with the incorporation of a low-gain antenna (that ensure telecommunications with the Earth for the entire duration of the mission), the VIMS spectrometer, the radio-science subsystem (RSIS) and the radar which also uses the high-gain antenna. ASI has also developed for the Huygens spacecraft the HASI instrument which measured the physical properties of the atmosphere and Titan's surface.
The Memorandum of Understanding published in the Official Journal n. 12 of 16 September 1995 for the cooperation between NASA and ASI for the Cassini Mission.