The Cassini/Huygens Spacecraft Mission to Saturn and its moons
The Birkeland Lecture 2021:
In September 2017, the NASA/ESA Cassini-Huygens spacecraft mission ended its 20 years in space by burning up in Saturn’s atmosphere. The end of mission orbits were designed to better understand the interior of Saturn and its very surprising axisymmetric planetary magnetic field.
Many surprising discoveries were made during the orbital tour at Saturn, including water vapour plumes at the small moon Enceladus and implications this has for potential habitability; ice volcanoes and liquid ethane/methane on Titan’s surface; and liquid water oceans below the surface of both of these moons. Saturn’s aurorae were studied in more detail than ever before, utilising both in-situ and remote observations, and an understanding gained of the environment around Saturn filled with plasma and energetic particles. Some of these highlights will be described as well as touching briefly on the next large planetary mission, JUICE, going to Jupiter and its moons due for launch in August 2022.
About Michele Dougherty
Michele Dougherty is Professor of Space Physics at Imperial College London. Michele has been involved in space exploration for nearly 30 years and in 2008 she became only the second woman in more than a century to be awarded the Royal Society’s Hughes Medal.
She is leading unmanned exploratory missions to Saturn and Jupiter and was the Principal Investigator for the magnetometer instrument onboard the Cassini mission to Saturn that that led to the discovery of an atmosphere around one of Saturn’s moons. Michele is also Principal Investigator the magnetometer for the JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) of the European Space Agency due for launch in 2022. She has contributed significantly to the UK space sector and was chair for the Science Programme Advisory Committee of the UK Space Agency from 2014 to 2016. As Head of Department Michele leads one of the largest Physics Departments in the UK with an outstanding reputation for excellence in research, undergraduate education and postgraduate training.
Michele is a Fellow of the Royal Society, was awarded the Royal Astronomical Society Geophysics Gold medal in 2017, was awarded a CBE in the 2018 New Year’s Honours List, and was awarded the Institute of Physics Richard Glazebrook Gold Medal and Prize.