In what is turning out to be a pretty darn good week for science, the Huygens probe from the Cassini spacecraft has apparently entered the atmosphere of the shrouded moon Titan, the parachutes deployed, and data was successfully transmitted. This blows away all previous surface landings on extraterrestrial bodies and is, well, really cool.
category - Science Update: 10:25 Cassini is now sending ‘dummy packets’. The signal has been acquired by JPL/ESA. Good news.
Update: 9:35 JPL Mission briefing. “We know all three parachutes did deploy and the heat shield worked. We know it survived for at least half an hour on the surface of Titan.” Note-some of the data intended for and likely received by Cassini “leaked” all the way to earth, in addition to the carrier signal, indicating data was received from onboard instruments. Cassini should turn to earth and start sending at 10:07 EST. 67 minutes later we begin to download Huygens data. It will take some time to compile
Update: 8:30 ESA/ESOC Mission briefing. Huygens is STILL transmitting earth time. Data Stream appears ‘very rich’. Huygens appears to have survived and is still transmitting well beyond impact/touchdown on Titan’s surface. Cassini will listen for Huygens’s signal as long as there is the slightest possibility that it can be detected. Once Huygens’s landing site disappears below the horizon, there’s no more chance of signal, and Huygens’s work is finished. Cassini-Huygens Data stream is scheduled to commence at 10:07 EST but will not be acquired until 11:14 EST earth time
Update: 7:50 Contact at JPL tells me that Earth bound radio observatory believes they also detected ‘solid’ image data from the DISR . This remains unconfirmed officially.
Update: 7:46 Data in stream confirmed. Doppler data from one of the onboard instruments was detected via earth bound observatory being transmitted to cassini. Hod damn I think this may have worked folks.
Update: 7:30 AM EST Mission Briefing From ESA/ESOC in Germany, reporting “We have a signal, so we know Huygens is alive”. “Signal was solid for a long time”. “Signal was solid for two hours!”. Confirmed data transmission from Huygens to Cassini by earth bound radio observatories world wide!! Very encouraging!!!!
Cassini webpage: Radio Astronomers Confirm Huygens Entry in the Atmosphere of Titan