As part of its ongoing effort to bring viewers the most comprehensive coverage of groundbreaking events in the world of science, The Science Channel will air the world premiere of "RENDEZVOUS WITH SATURN'S MOON" on January 13, 2005, from 8-9 PM (ET/PT). The one-hour special will follow the multinational Cassini-Huygens Saturn mission, which has journeyed for seven years and some two billion miles to reach the ringed planet. The program will review all the amazing discoveries made by the mission so far and watch final preparations on the eve of the Huygens space probe's historic landing on the surface of Saturn's largest and most mysterious moon, Titan.
This dramatic event will mark the first time that a human-made object has ever landed on another planet's moon and only the second moon ever landed on. The Huygens probe is scheduled to separate from the Cassini orbiter in late December 2004 and free-fall down to Titan for two and a half weeks. Swathed in an orange cloud, Titan is not just any moon -- Titan is the second largest moon in our solar system (larger, in fact, than some of the planets) and the only moon with its own atmosphere. Scientists are particularly excited about this mission because Titan's nitrogen-rich atmosphere is the closest thing to Earth in the entire solar system.
Then, with cameras inside mission control at the European Space Agency in Germany, The Science Channel will present the U.S. premiere of "TOUCHDOWN ON SATURN'S MOON" on January 14, 9-10 PM (ET/PT), offering viewers the chance to witness that day's dramatic landing on Titan and the first data transmissions and photographs sent back from the probe.
Scientists are hoping that the information gleaned from Titan will uncover some of the geologic secrets of Earth's past and possibly how life on Earth evolved from its primordial soup of organic materials. Titan's nitrogen and methane rich environment is like a frozen embryo that scientists believe mirrors our own Earth several billion years ago, giving scientists an incredible opportunity to peer back in time and try to understand how life might have evolved here on our own planet. Scientists still aren't sure whether the Huygens probe will land on rock, icy sludge or maybe even an ocean of liquid methane, which might make this mission the first oceanographic expedition beyond our planet.
Throughout the two one-hour specials, viewers will also take a behind-the- scenes tour of the advanced technology inside the spacecraft. They will meet John Zarnecki, the lead scientist on the Huygens Surface Science Team, and the other dedicated scientists leading the international mission, as they explain the treasure trove of scientific data that will be collected by Huygens as it free-falls down and makes its historic landing on Titan.
The Cassini mission is jointly sponsored by NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency and is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The mission is second only to the International Space Station in its level of international cooperation -- the team comprises 256 scientists from 18 countries and has a total budget of $3 billion.
"RENDEZVOUS WITH SATURN'S MOON" is produced for The Science Channel by Doug Paynter of Wind River Films. "TOUCHDOWN ON SATURN'S MOON" is produced for The Science Channel by Screenhouse Productions in association with The Open University. Allan Butler is executive producer for The Science Channel.
The Science Channel is part of Discovery Networks, U.S., a unit of Discovery Communications, Inc., which also operates and manages the Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, the Travel Channel, Discovery Health Channel, Discovery HD Theater, Discovery Kids Channel, Discovery Times Channel, Discovery Wings Channel, Discovery Home Channel, Discovery en Espanol and FitTV. The unit also distributes BBC AMERICA.
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