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Cassini Mission Status Report

12/20/2004 12:00AM

Cassini Mission Status Report
NASA's Deep Space Network tracking station in Madrid, Spain, acquired a signal at about 4:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (7:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time 12/14/04). As anticipated, the spacecraft came within 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) of Titan's surface.

As with the last flyby, a major goal of this flyby ws to measure the thickness of Titan's atmosphere. This information will help determine whether Cassini can safely get closer to Titan on subsequent flybys, and will also be used to verify that Huygens atmosphere models are correct.

Titan is a prime target of the Cassini-Huygens mission because it is the only moon in our solar system with a thick smoggy atmosphere. The Huygens probe, built and operated by the European Space Agency, is attached to Cassini. After its Christmas Eve release, it will descend through Titan's atmosphere on Jan. 14, 2005, as it collects atmospheric data down to the surface.

Raw images are available at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter. The European Space Agency built and managed the development of the Huygens probe and is in charge of the probe operations. The Italian Space Agency provided the high-gain antenna, much of the radio system and elements of several of Cassini's science instruments.