Cassini-Huygens is one of the most successful international space missions. 35 years ago, a small group of US and European scientists conceived the idea of an American orbiter of Saturn delivering a European probe to the moon, Titan. NASA and ESA eventually took up the idea and in 1997 Cassini-Huygens was launched to arrive in Saturn orbit seven years on. Huygens descended through the clouds of Titan, to land on January 15th 2005. Using regular gravity assists from Titan, Cassini has continued in orbits customised for science targets until, in April 2017, it started a series of 22 orbits taking it inside Saturn’s rings finally to be crushed by the atmosphere in September 2017. The speaker built an instrument for the US mother ship, Cassini but then found himself heading the ESA team landing the Huygens probe on Titan. Cassini ends this month with a planned crash into Saturn’s atmosphere.
Prof David Southwood, Senior Research Investigator, Imperial College, London
David, a planetary scientist, is chairman of the Steering Board of the UK Space Agency and Senior Research Investigator at Imperial College. He had an academic career as a space scientist at Imperial College, London and in the USA. In 1997, he left academia for the European Space Agency to draw up what has become the current architecture of European Earth Observation space programmes (Living Planet and Copernicus). In 2001 he made another major change in career and became Director of Science at ESA, taking responsibility for all Astronomy and Space science missions. He retired from ESA in 2011, returned to Imperial College. He is currently chair of the Steering Board of UK Space Agency. He is a past president of the Royal Astronomical Society (2012-2014), a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and a member of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Advisory Council.
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