Welcome to the web site of the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS), the hub of the Cassini Imaging Science Team.
Cassini, one of the most sophisticated planetary spacecraft ever built, was launched on October 15, 1997 from Cape Canaveral. Its ultimate mission is a thorough, in-depth, 4-year-long exploration of the Saturn system which will begin when Cassini arrives there, after a 7 year journey across the solar system, in the summer of 2004.
From the beginning, Cassini's mission plan called for gravity assists of several planets. These brief planetary flybys offer opportunities to test and evaluate the performance of the spacecraft and its scientific payload, as well as to collect valuable new data on solar system bodies from the latest suite in complex scientific instumentation.
In the two years that it has been in flight, Cassini has enjoyed gravity assistance from two Venus flybys (April 1998 and June 1999) and its Earth Wide angle movie flyby on August 18, 1999 (GMT). Its last gravity assist flyby which will place it on its final trajectory to Saturn will occur in late December, 2000, when it makes a distant flyby of the planet Jupiter.
During the very successful Cassini Earth flyby, the cameras of the Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS), as well as some of its other scientific instruments, were tested out on the Moon, a familiar and well-studied celestial object. What resulted is a lovely set of images and small video clips documenting Cassini's encounter with our own natural satellite (Imaging Diary: Moon). While their scientific content is limited, they illustrate that the camera system is functioning beautifully, and that we can expect a bonanza of imaging delights when Cassini makes its late 2000 encounter with the Jupiter system, and again when it begins orbiting Saturn in the year 2004.
Over the next decade, you will find here at this web site the official Cassini Imaging Diary ... all the very latest sights seen by Cassini as it makes its ways across the solar system to Saturn. My team members and I will be periodically releasing here the latest selected Cassini images and describing to you their scientific content and importance. We hope that you visit this site often and that you enjoy following along with us on the great journey back to Saturn.
Now, on to Jupiter!
Carolyn Porco Cassini Imaging Team Leader University of Arizona Tucson, AZ