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Cassini-Huygens – the Primary Mission
Saturn: the allure of magnificent rings, a planet-sized moon, and dozens of smaller moons. Three spacecraft had flown by this fascinating planet before Cassini-Huygens was launched in 1997. But this mission wouldn't just fly by and snap some photos. It was going to get up close and personal.
*Cassini - the end is nigh*
The Cassini spacecraft is in the last few days of its last mission, the Grand Finale. Check out the website for more information, a countdown, pictures and videos. https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/grand-finale/overview/
*Voyagers - 40 years on*
Pioneer 10 and 11 were the first missions to the gas giants, but it was the Voyagers that really revealed the outer planets and their moons to us.
Voyager 1 – Gas Giants and a Last Look Homeward
When a rare planetary alignment opened up the outer Solar System, Voyager 1 was sent forth. It observed the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn and their moons. At nearly 4 billion miles from the Sun, the probe turned and took one last picture of home before continuing its journey to the stars.
Voyager 2 - The Grand Tour
Most of our knowledge of Neptune and Uranus is based on Voyager 2's visits. Its grand tour of the four giant planets used a rare alignment of the planets that let the gravity of each one boost the spacecraft to the next one. No other probe has been to either of the ice giants.
*Birthday – Konstantin Tsiolkovsky*
Russian rocket scientist Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky was born on September 17, 1857. He's considered one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics. Tsiolkovsky was already captivated by space travel long before the Wright brothers' first plane flew 120 feet. When it was still science fiction to most people, he was developing the theory and doing the math for multistage rockets. A crater on the far side of the Moon is named for him.
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Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor
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