What is Cassini Spacecraft?

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Recent findings from data collected by NASA's Cassini spacecraft reveal the presence of a vast ocean beneath the icy surface of Saturn's moon Mimas.

About Cassini Spacecraft

  • Cassini-Huygens was a joint NASA/European Space Agency (ESA)/Italian Space Agency (ASI) space mission to Saturn.
  • It was launched on October 15, 1997. 
  • The mission consisted of NASA’s Cassini orbiter, which was the first space probe to orbit Saturn, and the ESA’s Huygens probe, which landed on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.
  • Spacecraft:
    • It was one of the largest interplanetary spacecraft.
    • The Cassini orbiter weighed 2,125 kg (4,685 pounds) and was 6.7 metres (22 feet) long and 4 metres (13 feet) wide.
    • The instruments on board Cassini included radar to map the cloud-covered surface of Titan and a magnetometer to study Saturn’s magnetic field. 
    • The disk-shaped Huygens probe was mounted on the side of Cassini. It weighed 349 kg (769 pounds), was 2.7 metres (8.9 feet) across, and carried six instruments designed to study the atmosphere and surface of Titan.
  • Highlights:
    • It orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017, circling the planet 294 times and teaching us almost everything we know about Saturn.
    • It measured the structure of Saturn’s atmosphere and rings, as well as how they interact with the planet’s moons.
    • It also discovered six named moons and revealed Enceladus and Titan as promising locations to search for extraterrestrial life.

Key Facts about Mimas

  • It is the smallest and innermost of the major regular moons of Saturn. 
  • The surface is icy and heavily cratered.
  • The most striking feature of this small moon is a gigantic crater known as Herschel. This crater measures 80 miles (130 km) across. 
    • A central peak in the center of the crater rises to a height of 4 miles, almost as high as Mount Everest on Earth. 
    • Herschel is one of the largest impact structures, relative to the size of the body, known in the solar system.
  • The low density of Mimas indicates that it is composed almost entirely of water ice.

Q1) What is a crater?

A crater is a bowl-shaped depression produced by the impact of a meteorite, volcanic activity, or an explosion.

Source: Hidden ocean beneath Saturn ' s moon Mimas discovered by NASA' s Cassini spacecraft