Linda J. Spilker, a project scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, grins when she talks about the discoveries made by the Hyugens probe as it nears its sixth year on the surface of Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.
“It’s just totally amazing,” she said, referring to the probe’s early exploration of Titan. “Here are some of these pictures coming back, and they’re showing what looks like we’re landing in, perhaps, a streambed or something. You see these pebbles, rounded smooth pebbles, smoothed by fluid, and just looking so much like the Earth. I think that was the most startling thing.”
Called the Cassini Equinox Mission, the project consists of two parts: Cassini and the European-built Hyugens probe. It is slated to continue until 2017 after NASA secured an additional $60 million per year, Spilker said.