A key point in the mission occurred in 2005 when NASA's orbiter Cassini released Europe's Huygens probe into the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan. Huygens parachuted through the moon's thick atmosphere and landed. Photographs and other data returned by the probe gave scientists a far more detailed understanding of this world.
Photo: Artist's impression of the Cassini-Huygens probe (NASA)
An unmanned probe explores Saturn and its moons.
Brian Cox visits the Saturn probe's mission control.
Professor Brian Cox visits NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the control centre for the Cassini mission to Saturn. He learns how Saturn can help us understand the early Solar System.
Sir Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott discuss lakes found on Saturn's moon.
Sir Patrick Moore and his co-presenter Dr Chris Lintott discuss lakes discovered on the surface of Titan by the Cassini spacecraft.
Enceladus is a curious moon with tiger stripes and ice fountains.
Professor Brian Cox meets Professor Carolyn Porco to find out what the Cassini spacecraft discovered about Saturn's curious moon Enceladus.
The Cassini probe proves that Titan has lakes.
Professor Brian Cox shows how a picture taken by the Cassini spacecraft proves the existence of lakes of liquid on Titan.
The launch of Cassini was more spectacular than usual for those watching.
The night launch of the space probe Cassini was more spectacular than usual for some of the watching scientists.
Cassini–Huygens is an unmanned spacecraft sent to the planet Saturn. It is a flagship-class NASA-ESA-ASI robotic spacecraft sent to the Saturn system. It has studied the planet and its many natural satellites since arriving there in 2004, also observing Jupiter and the heliosphere, and testing the theory of relativity. Launched in 1997 after nearly two decades of development, it includes a Saturn orbiter and an atmospheric probe/lander for the moon Titan called Huygens, which entered and landed on Titan in 2005. Cassini is the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter orbit, and its mission is ongoing as of 2014. The two-part spacecraft is named after astronomers Giovanni Cassini and Christiaan Huygens.
The spacecraft launched on October 15, 1997 aboard a Titan IVB/Centaur and entered orbit around Saturn on July 1, 2004, after an interplanetary voyage which included flybys of Earth, Venus, and Jupiter. On December 25, 2004, Huygens separated from the orbiter at approximately 02:00 UTC. It reached Saturn's moon Titan on January 14, 2005, when it entered Titan's atmosphere and descended to the surface. It successfully returned data to Earth, using the orbiter as a relay. This was the first landing ever accomplished in the outer Solar System.
Nearly a decade after entering orbit, on April 3, 2014, NASA reported that evidence for a large underground ocean of liquid water on Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, had been found by Cassini. According to scientists, evidence of an underground ocean suggests that Enceladus is one of the most likely places in the solar system to "host microbial life". On June 30, 2014, NASA celebrated ten years of Cassini exploring Saturn and its moons, highlighting the discovery of water activity on Enceladus among other findings.