Cassini Space Probe Sees Earths Past in Titan

    April 26, 2005

The Cassini probe, which circles Saturn’s moon, Titan, continues to find information which many scientists believe could be quite similar to Earth in it’s primordial past.

NASA said the probe flew within 638 miles of the surface in Titan’s upper atmosphere and found some fascinating information.

Scientists believe that Titan’s atmosphere may be a laboratory for studying the organic chemistry that preceded life and provided the building blocks for life on Earth. The role of the upper atmosphere in this organic “factory” of hydrocarbons is very intriguing to scientists, especially given the large number of different hydrocarbons detected by Cassini during the flyby.

“We are beginning to appreciate the role of the upper atmosphere in the complex carbon cycle that occurs on Titan,” said Dr. Hunter Waite, principal investigator of the Cassini ion and neutral mass spectrometer and professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. “Ultimately, this information from the Saturn system will help us determine the origins of organic matter within the entire solar system.”

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C.

The probe took off in 1997 and took 7 years to get there.

John Stith is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.