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Launch of the Cassini-Huygens mission on 15 October 1997



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Launch of the Cassini-Huygens mission on 15 October 1997
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A spectacular night launch from Cape Canaveral marked the beginning of the almost seven-year journey of the Cassini-Huygens mission to the ringed planet Saturn and its icy moons.

After a decade of preparations, a Titan IVb, NASA’s most powerful launch vehicle, first brought the spacecraft into an orbit around Earth, and then boosted it with a Centaur upper stage in order to bring it into its complicated trajectory through the inner Solar System. Two close flybys of Venus and one each of Earth and, around the turn of the year 2001, of Jupiter, accelerated Cassini-Huygens to its ultimate cruising speed.

On 1 July 2004, the mission entered into orbit around Saturn. On 25 December 2004, Cassini released the European probe Huygens, which landed on Saturn’s moon Titan on 14 January 2005. The Cassini orbiter will be circling Saturn until at least 2010.

Credit: NASA.
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