NASA is extending the international Cassini-Huygens mission by two years. Originally scheduled to end in July of this year, planned projects are: twenty-six flybys of Titan, seven of Enceladus, one each of Dione, Helene, and Rhea, and further studies of Saturn’s rings, magnetosphere and planetary environment.

Saturn Moon Collage

This is really good news. It seems the spacecraft is operating well and is in good shape. There are three instruments that have ‘hiccups,’ not bad for having been launched ten years ago. There is still propellant available to carry out the maneuvers needed in the next two years. The discoveries and pictures just add to the mountain of questions and lists of items we would like to know more about.

Cassini has been providing data daily for the past four years. While operating costs are involved, chiefly in labor, all the equipment, a not insignificant cost, is working and paid for long ago. It actually saves money keep a mission going that yields scientific value. A second spacecraft can be delayed for some years that would entail much additional cost, a cost that can be avoided for a while by keeping Cassini “on the payroll.”. Plus Cassini is a proved success. This also helps ensure more focused and specific missions to Titan and Enceladus at some distant point in the future.

See NASA’s news release here: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/press-release-details.cfm?newsID=833

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