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Huygens spacecraft

first probe to land in the outer Solar System South East,

An orange-coloured rocky landscape.
The first colour view of Titan’s surface, taken on 14 January 2005. ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

After a seven-year journey from Earth, on 14 January 2005 the Huygens spacecraft touched the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan.

The Cassini-Huygens mission was a joint endeavour between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian space agency Agenzia Spaziale Italiana. Its aim was to spend four years exploring the Saturnian system.

While the Cassini spacecraft continued to collect data from space, the Huygens probe was sent to explore the surface of Titan. On board, the parachutes used to slow its descent were of British design and the Surface Science Package was developed by the Space Sciences Department of Kent University and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Space Science Department under the direction of John Zarnecki (born 1949).

The data relayed back indicated that this part of Titan had a thin, frozen crust with a softer uniform material underneath. Titan continues to fascinate scientists because of its thick atmosphere, rich in organic compounds, similar to that of the primordial Earth.

Science Museum

South East
University of Kent
Key Individuals
John Zarnecki,