Cassini updater

The orbital insertion phase of the mission appeared to be flawless. The first pictures of the event should be arriving back here at Earth around 8:30 AM EDT, due to the manuevers pointing the antennas away from a good position to transmit data, and the length of travel time for the signal from the spacecraft (approximately an hour and 24 minutes one way). Look for some stunning happy snaps of the sixth planet from the sun to start hitting the news around lunchtime.

The live event was exciting, but not all that visually spectacular. The progress indication consisted of radio observations of a carrier tone, and the doppler shift produced, indicating that the orbital insertion burn was in progress. This was depicted on a graph, with a sub window indicating signal strength from the spacecraft. The JPL crowd was ecstatic when the data indicated that the 96 minute engine burn was accurate to within 1 second of duration, and that the doppler shift prediction/projection was within 5 hertz of what was planned.

In simpler terms, they were quite happy to see that they'd scored a spot on bullseye from an extreme distance.

At closest approach to Saturn, the spacecraft was travelling at approximately 30KM/sec, and passed within 20,000 miles of the cloud tops of the ringed planet.

The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft is now all set to begin a multi-year tour of the planet. The next 'big' event will be the release of the Huygens probe to attempt a semi-soft landing on Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Titan is almost as large as Mars, and has an atmosphere thicker than that here on Earth. Very interesting place.