Have you ever wondered what Saturn’s rings are made of? Why does Saturn have these rings whilst the other planets in our solar system don’t? Why and how do these rings exist?
In order to answer some of these questions, a voyage named the Cassini mission was announced in October 1989 and launched in October 1997. It took almost anotcher 7 years before it arrived at Saturn to begin a 4 year tour around Saturn’s own system.
Here is a picture of the Cassini-Huygens Instrument and the team of scientists working on it.
The image displayed below shows the path in which the spacecraft took just to get to Saturn! It had to orbit the sun twice to build up enough speed.
(For those of you who have watched ‘Armageddon’, in order for NASA to get their spacecraft to the asteroid in time, they had to fire it around the moon first – using the gravitational pull to accelerate the spacecraft, this way allowing it to build up enough speed to get to the asteroid as quickly as possible).
As you can see from the image above, it took almost 7 years for Cassini to actually get to Saturn. The distance between Earth and Saturn varies from approximately (when the two are closest together) to approximately (when the two are at their furthest apart). This is a vast distance so you should begin to appreciate why it took so long for Cassini to get there.