This Day in Space History: Huygens Probe Lands on Titan

By: Sean Sporman
By: Sean Sporman

History was made in January of 2005 when an unmanned probe made a landing on one of the moons of planet Saturn.

The Huygens probe was part of the Cassini mission, an unmanned exploration of the sixth planet in the solar system, Saturn. The two probes launched together in 1997 and reached the ringed planet many years later.

After detaching from Cassini on Christmas Day of 2004, the Huygens probe would land on the moon Titan on January 14, 2005. Titan, one of the largest moons of the planet Saturn, has piqued the interest of astronomers and scientists for decades after it was discovered it had its own atmosphere. Some have even speculated the moon might be capable of supporting some forms of life.

The probe would descend through the atmosphere by parachute, and was designed to operate regardless if it landed on solid ground or in a liquid sea. The probe would return a large set of pictures from its descent and one from the surface, as well as a wide variety of scientific data about the moon before ceasing operation. This is the first landing of any kind by a spacecraft in the outer portion of the solar system.

Huygen's parent probe, Cassini, remains operational and continues to return pictures and scientific information about Saturn, its rings, and its various moons to this day.

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