Visiting Saturn’s moon Titan

Just over 8 years ago the European Space Agency’s probe landed on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan.

To mark the occasion, NASA released an animation simulating what the probe’s final few hours on the planet most likely looked like. Based on data gleaned from the probe’s instruments, the animation is a depiction of the alien world.

But why did NASA go through the trouble of creating this animation?

The probe represents the first vehicle to land in the outer solar system.  Launched on October 15, 1997 and attached to the Cassini orbiter, the “Huygens” probe remained nearly lifeless for its 6.7 year journey through space. On December 25, 2004 the 318kg probe detached from the Cassini orbiter to rendezvous with Titan.

Twenty-two days later the Huygens probe entered the atmosphere of Titan. According to Wikipedia, “The main mission phase was a parachute descent through Titan’s atmosphere. The batteries and all other resources were sized for a mission duration of 153 minutes, corresponding to a maximum descent time of 2.5 hours plus at least 3 additional minutes (and possibly a half hour or more) on Titan’s surface.”

During the probe’s brief life on Titan it discovered evidence of recent liquid activity on the surface of the moon. Subsequent analysis of Huygens’ data confirmed the existence of permanent hydrocarbon seas and lakes on the moon’s surface.

While the Huygens mission didn’t last as long as the numerous Mars rover missions, the discoveries made by the probe are advancing our understanding of our solar system and showing us the myriad wonders that exist on alien worlds.

Watch NASA’s Video Below:

Images and Video Courtesy of Wikipedia & NASA