Thursday 2nd December 2004
Flett Events Theatre
Earth Galleries, Natural History Museum, London
Registration: 10.00 a.m.
Briefing starts: 10.30 a.m.
Since entering the orbit of Saturn on the 1st July this year the joint NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini Huygens spacecraft has delivered amazing images and data of the ringed planet and its mysterious moon Titan. The mission is now approaching a crucial milestone in its voyage of discovery.
On 25th December 2004 the Huygens probe will separate from the Cassini orbiter and spend the next 20 days cruising towards its target, Saturn's largest moon, Titan. On 14th January 2005 the probe will begin its final descent to the surface of Titan, analysing the composition of the moon's atmosphere and 'weather' system before landing on its "unknown" surface some three hours later where it will carry out further scientific studies.
This media briefing will provide an update on science achievements so far, future prospects and, importantly, a detailed timeline for the Huygens separation, descent and landing plus news handling arrangements for the 25 December 2004 and 14 January 2005.
Dr. Monica Grady, the Natural History Museum
Dr Gerhard Schwehm, European Space Agency
Professor Carl Murray, Queen Mary, University of London * Cassini Imaging Science Subsystem team
Professor John Zarnecki, Open University * Principal Investigator, Huygens Surface Science Package
Gary Lay, LogicaCMG * UK industry involvement
Contact Julia Maddock, PPARC Press Office
Tel: 01793 442094
Mobile: 07901 514975
The press briefing takes place in the Flett Events Theatre, Earth Galleries at the Natural History Museum (map - http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visiting/where.html) which can be best accessed from the Exhibition Road entrance. Nearest tube is South Kensington.
Video animations of the Cassini - Huygens mission and the descent to Titan will be available at the briefing. New animations will be available following the ESA press briefing on 7th December. See www.esa.tv for further details.
Requests for interviews with speakers will be co-ordinated on the day. In addition to those mentioned several other scientists and industrialists involved in the mission will be available for comment.
NASA * http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov
ESA * http://saturn.esa.int
UK scientists are playing significant roles in the Cassini Huygens mission with involvement in 6 of the 12 instruments onboard the Cassini orbiter and 2 of the 6 instruments on the Huygens probe. The UK has the lead role in the magnetometer instrument on Cassini (Imperial College) and the Surface Science Package on Huygens (Open University).
UK industry has provided many of the key systems for the Huygens probe, including the flight software (LogicaCMG) and parachutes (Martin Baker). These mission critical systems are designed to perform reliably in some of the most challenging and remote environments ever attempted by a robotic spacecraft.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative mission of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, a division of the California Institute of Technology also in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C.
The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) is the UK's strategic science investment agency. It funds research, education and public understanding in four broad areas of science - particle physics, astronomy, cosmology and space science.
PPARC is government funded and provides research grants and studentships to scientists in British universities, gives researchers access to world-class facilities and funds the UK membership of international bodies such as the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, CERN, the European Space Agency and the European Southern Observatory. It also contributes money for the UK telescopes overseas on La Palma, Hawaii, Australia and in Chile, the UK Astronomy Technology Centre at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh and the MERLIN/VLBI National Facility.