The Cassini spacecraft and the Huygens descent probe should be in orbit around Saturn now after Cassini completed a 96-minute engine burn to slow down and allow itself to be caught. Because of the nearly one and one half hour speed of light time lag between Saturn and the Earth, we are only now getting signals from the spacecraft as it passes over Saturn’s rings. Confirmation of orbit should arrive sometimes around 9:15 pm Pacific Standard Time.
While passing through one of the wide divisions in the ring system, Cassini will snap images of the planet and its rings far superior to anything previously obtained. This data should arrive sometime early in the morning on July 1 and NASA is hoping to release images to the public around 5:00 am Pacific Standard Time.
Cassini will spend the next four years orbiting Saturn and gathering data about the planet and its rings and moons. In January 2005 the Huygens probe will parachute through Titan’s thick red atmosphere.