The world’s space science community is celebrating arrival at the gates of another world today with the success of stage one of NASA and ESA’s Saturn mission. The Cassini probe arrived in orbit around Titan, after which ESA’s David Southwood reported european success; The Huygens probe had been launched without a hitch.
Titan is the only moon in the solar system with an atmosphere. ESA’s Huygenslander has to ease its way through the cloud-cloaked surface below and touchdown in three weeks time. With radio transmissions taking over two hours to make a return journey to Titan, there were anxious moments before learning the separation had gone successfully, Huygens responding perfectly to its orders seven years after beginning its long trip. The object of the mission is to find out if Titan could be useful and to discover whether there are liquids down there? Researchers expect to find a rocky core surrounded by metallic hydrogen liquid, but there is speculation there could be hydrocarbons like methane, making microbial life possible. The relatively young body also has evidence of geological activity.