On 14 January 2005 the European Space Agency’s Huygens probe separated from the Cassini spacecraft and landed on Saturn’s moon Titan. The touchdown on the surface of Titan marked the first, and so far only, landing of a man-made probe in the outer Solar System.
To mark the fifth anniversary of this remarkable event, scientists will gather from 13-15 January at the CosmoCaixa science museum in Barcelona, Spain, to review the key scientific and engineering achievements of Huygens, to evaluate the current understanding of Titan, and to consider future Titan exploration missions.
The Huygens Probe – the ESA contribution to the joint ESA/NASA/ASI Cassini-Huygens mission – carried six scientific instruments to perform measurements and obtain images as the probe descended through the Titan atmosphere, and to determine the physical properties of the surface at the impact site.
The data returned from the Huygens instruments have provided a unique view of Titan. Now being analysed and further interpreted in synergy with the global data obtained by Cassini’s instruments, they continue to reveal Titan’s unique place as a Solar System object resembling the Earth in many aspects.
The Huygens Legacy and Future Titan Exploration conference, which will run for three days from 13 – 15 January 2010, will take stock of the Huygens mission on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the landing of the probe on Saturn’s moon, Titan.
The conference will cover a broad range of topics including science results from the Huygens in situ exploration of Titan, results from studies of this moon using remote sensing from instruments on the Cassini Orbiter combined with Huygens data, and the role of ground-based observations, laboratory data and modelling in interpreting the observations of Titan from space.
In addition, participants will review expectations for the ongoing Cassini Equinox Mission. The primary Cassini mission, which ran from 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2008, included 45 flybys of Titan. Since 1 July 2008 the Cassini Equinox Mission continues the tour of the Saturnian system.
A total of 26 Titan flybys are planned, of which 20 had been completed by the end of 2009. The remaining 6 will be carried out in 2010, the next one taking place on 12 January.
The conference will also provide an opportunity for scientists to take stock of the current understanding of Titan in the light of the Huygens and Cassini studies and to discuss scientific priorities for future missions to Titan.
Preserving the Huygens Legacy
Participants will use this occasion to examine ways of preserving the unique scientific and engineering knowledge obtained during the Huygens mission and of transferring it to future generations of Solar System explorers. This topic will be the subject of a specific ESA technical study to be conducted this year.
The Huygens Legacy and Future Titan Exploration conference will be held at the CosmoCaixa science museum in Barcelona, Spain, from 13-15 January 2010. The conference is organised around a series of introductory lectures, invited and contributed talks, and poster sessions. The conference is open to all; there is no conference fee but participants must register.
A public event celebrating the landing of Huygens on Titan will be held on the afternoon/evening of 14 January in the Auditorium of the CosmoCaixa.