Titan vs. Low Earth Orbit

(via APS – What’s new by Robert L. Park – Friday, 21 Jan 05)

Last Friday, the reach of man extended 900 million miles to the surface of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. It stands as one of the most notable voyages of exploration in history. Carried piggyback on Cassini since 1997, the European Space Agency’s Huygens probe parachuted 789 miles to reach Titan’s smoggy surface. Huygens had the good fortune to land on solid ground, within sight of the shoreline of a hydrocarbon sea. Over the next several hours, until its batteries finally died, Huygens transmitted everything it had learned back to Cassini, which relayed it to Darmstadt. The data will keep researchers busy for years. Cassini will continue studying Saturn for another four years. Meanwhile, only 90 miles from the surface of Earth, the NASA On-Orbit Status Report notes that the ISS crew checked gear for a 26 Jan space walk, performed periodic microbial air sampling, did routine maintenance on the toilet facilities, performed a 2.5 hour exercise program, had an interview with USA Today and recorded a video message in observance of the 250th anniversary of Moscow State University. Today’s quiz: Which cost the most, Cassini/Huygens or the ISS?

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