Stardate: Mission To Titan

Updated Tuesday 11th January 2005

Join Stardate as it travels to Saturn's largest moon.

Lucie Green Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC Dr Lucie Green BBC TWO, Janaury 14th, 2005 11.30pm
Highlights and update on BBC TWO, January 15th 2005, 2:20pm

On January 14 2005, the Huygens space probe will complete its descent through the atmosphere of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. It’s the most distant object on which a spacecraft from Earth has attempted to land; and if all goes according to plan, the mission will send back high-resolution pictures of Titan’s surface, along with streams of data from six other instruments.

The first pictures will be seen at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, on the evening of January 14. Stardatewill be live from ESOC at 11.30pm to give viewers the first chance to see the images as they’re downloaded.

Chemically, Titan’s atmosphere is the closest to Earth’s early atmosphere of any planet that can be found in our Solar System and the data relayed during this live broadcast could hold the key to understanding how life came to exist on Earth.

For those involved in this joint NASA, European Space Agency and Italian Space Agency mission - such as The Open University’s Professor John Zarnecki - January 14 is the culmination of 16 years of dedication to the Titan cause.

Prof Zarnecki envisages three possible scenarios: a relatively hard landing on an icy-rocky surface; a squelch into a tar-like gunge; and - his favourite outcome - a splash-down in an oily sea.

“Huygens would then take the first measurements ever in extraterrestrial oceanography," he said. "We’ve done some calculations for what wind-driven waves might look like on Titan and they are actually quite scary. Under the same conditions, waves on Titan could be up to 10 times larger than on Earth," said Prof Zarnecki.

Stardate: Mission to Titan will include the story of the early days of the mission as the programme profiles Prof Zarnecki – one of the UK’s top space scientists and lead scientist of Huygens’ Surface Science Package – and reveals just what it takes to dedicate nearly two decades of your life to one job – or in this case one mission.

It will also profile Cassini-Huygens’ journey from Earth to Saturn, which began in October 1997 when the 5.6 tonne spacecraft Cassini was launched from Cape Canaveral. The craft has investigated Venus, Jupiter and interplanetary space during its voyage to Saturn.

The latest programme in this topical astronomy series will be presented by Adam Hart-Davis and Dr Lucie Green and will feature expert comment from the world’s most prominent space scientists.

Among the interviewees are The Open University’s Prof Barrie Jones, who will address the connection between Huygens and looking for life outside the Earth.

“In my mind the universe is teeming with life,” he comments during his interview.

To explain how the scientific instruments on board Huygens work, Dr Lucie Green travels to Brighton. Here, Lucie will explain the scientific principals behind the instruments, and investigate what they would have recorded if the probe had landed in Brighton, not Titan!

For the very latest on the mission, along with images (as they become available) keep an eye on the ESA Cassini-Huygens pages.
You might also like to take a look at NASA's site where images should also be available: NASA's Saturn images

In the programme, you'll hear some of the music that has been taken to Titan aboard Huygens. If you'd like to download the music for yourself, visit  music2titan.

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

Space exploration promises to be spectacular in 2015 Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: photos.com article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Space exploration promises to be spectacular in 2015

2014 was a phenomenal year for planetary science, will 2015 follow suit? Monica Grady outlines this year's exciting space events. 

Article
OU on the BBC: Destination Titan Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: NASA article icon

TV, Radio & Events 

OU on the BBC: Destination Titan

Destination Titan tells the fascinating story of John Zarnecki's personal space odyssey to land the Huygens probe on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.

Article
Discover Mercury: The BepiColombo mission Creative commons image Icon The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license video icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Discover Mercury: The BepiColombo mission

An introduction to 2017's BepiColombo mission.

Video
10 mins
Why Rosetta is the greatest space mission of our lifetime Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: ESA article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Why Rosetta is the greatest space mission of our lifetime

The Rosetta mission is just what's needed to inspire future astronauts and space scientists, writes Dr Natalie Starkey.

Article
British-led mission to moon’s south pole to kickstart new generation of lunar exploration Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Chad Baker/NASA article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

British-led mission to moon’s south pole to kickstart new generation of lunar exploration

There are many reasons to be excited by the Lunar Mission One; Dr Mahesh Anand outlines why the project is unique. 

Article
Lunar Mission One: A Moon mission for everyone Creative commons image Icon Aleksander Markin under CC-BY-SA licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Lunar Mission One: A Moon mission for everyone

Find out about the most exciting Moon mission since the Apollo landings and discover how you can get involved. 

Article
World Space Week: Is there life beyond Earth? Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: photos.com article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

World Space Week: Is there life beyond Earth?

Open University academics discuss their recent findings during a special World Space Week Lecture: Is there life beyond Earth?

Article
The opposite of selfies: Taking pictures of a billion stars Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: ESA–M. Pedoussaut, 2013; used under ESA terms and conditions article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

The opposite of selfies: Taking pictures of a billion stars

Gaia is about to start taking photos of the Milky Way - and adding to our understanding of our universe in new ways.

Article
Your house is full of space dust – it reveals the solar system's story Creative commons image Icon The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Your house is full of space dust – it reveals the solar system's story

Where does space dust come from? Natalie Starkey explains.

Article