Ten years ago, an observer from Earth parachuted into the haze of an alien moon toward an uncertain fate. After a gentle descent lasting more than two hours, it landed with a thud on a frigid floodplain, surrounded by icy cobblestones. With this feat, the Huygens probe accomplished humanity's first landing on a moon in the outer solar system. Huygens was safely on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.
The hardy probe not only survived the descent and landing, but continued to transmit data for more than an hour on the frigid surface of Titan, until its batteries were drained.
Since that historic moment, scientists from around the world have pored over volumes of data about Titan, sent to Earth by Huygens -- a project of the European Space Agency -- and its mothership, NASA's Cassini spacecraft. In the past 10 years, data from the dynamic spacecraft duo have revealed many details of a surprisingly Earth-like world.
In addition to the technical wizardry needed to pull off this tour de force, international partnerships were critical to successfully delivering the two spacecraft to Saturn and Titan.
Ten facts about Cassini as it relates to Titan are shown in the infographic at right.
A gallery of some of the best images related to Huygens is available at:
Cassini's mission is slated to continue through September 2017.
The Cassini Solstice Mission is a joint United States and European endeavor. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.