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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: January 2014

Prologue 1 - The genesis of Cassini-Huygens


1 Introduction: Titan viewed from Earth

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

- George Bernard Shaw

The exploration of the solar system has become an important part of the glory and dreams of our civilization. The study of the Saturnian system and Titan itself can be traced back more than 400 years to when Galileo first pointed his telescope to the night sky to seek the mysteries of the universe. The Cassini-Huygens mission represents the first time in human history that a spacecraft was sent to spend time in the Saturnian system for close-up observations, bringing humanity to the surface of one of Saturn's satellites. We believe that this extraordinary achievement will be remembered as a major milestone in planetary exploration 400 years from now. More than that, it is also the first planetary science project of truly global scale, with scientists from three continents joining the effort. How did it come about?

To begin, let us first summarize what we knew about Titan before the birth of the Cassini-Huygens mission. Comprehensive descriptions of Titan studies during the period from its discovery in 1655 to the landing of the Huygens probe in 2001 have been published by Fortes (1997) and Coustenis et al. (2009). Here we simply present a few highlights in chronological order.

Alexander, A. F. 1962. The Planet Saturn. Dover, Toronto.
Atreya, S. K., Donahue, T. M., and Kuhn, W. R. 1978. Evolution of an Atmosphere on Titan. Science, 201, 611–613.
Comas Sola, Joan. 1908. Observations des Satellites Principaux de Jupiter et de Titan. Astron Nachr., 179(4290), 289–290.
Coustenis, A., Lellouch, E., Sicardy, B., and Roe, H. 2009. Earth-Based Perspective and Pre-Cassini-Huygens Knowledge of Titan. Pages 9–34 of Brown, R. H., Lebreton, J. P., and Waite, J. H. (eds.), Titan from Cassini-Huygens. Springer-Verlag, New York.
Flasar, F. M. 1983. Oceans on Titan?Science, 221, 55–57.
Fortes, A. D. 1997. Surface Properties on Titan: A Review of the Literature. Univ. Coll. London.
Fulchignoni, M., Ferri, F., Angrilli, F., et al. 2005. In Situ Measurements of the Physical Characteristics of Titan's Environment. Nature, 438, 785–791.
Hunten, D. M. 1978. A Titan Atmosphere with a Surface Temperature of 200 K. NASA Conf. Publication, 2068, 127–140.
Huygens, C. 1656. De Saturni luna observatorio nova.
Huygens, C. 1689. Cosmotheoris.
Jaffe, W., Caldwell, J., and Owen, T. 1979. The Brightness of Titan at 6 Centimeters from the Very Large Array. Astrophys. J., 232, L75–L76.
Jeans, James H. 1954. The Dynamical Theory of Gases. 4th ed. 1925 edn. Dover, Toronto.
Khare, B. N., Sagan, C., et al. 1984. The Organic Aerosols of Titan. Adv. Space Res., 4, 59–68.
Kuiper, G. P. 1944. Titan, A Satellite with an Atmosphere. Astrophys. J., 100, 378–383.
Lewis, J. S. 1971. Satellites of the Outer Planets: Their Physical and Chemical Nature. Icarus, 15, 174–185.
Lunine, J. I., Stevenson, D. J., and Yung, Y. L. 1983. Ethane Ocean on Titan. Science, 222, 1229–1230.
Niemann, H. B., Atreya, S. K., Demick, J. E., et al. 2010. Composition of Titan's Lower Atmosphere and Simple Surface Volatiles as Measured by the Cassini-Huygens Probe Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer Experiment. J. Geophys. Res. (Planets), 115(E14), 12006. doi: 10.1029/2010JE003659.
Sotin, C., Mitri, G., Rappaport, N., et al. 2009. Titan's Interior Structure. Pages 61–73 of Brown, R. H., Lebreton, J.-P., and Waite, J. H. (eds.), Titan from Cassini-Huygens. Springer-Verlag, New York. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4020-9215-_4.
Veverka, J. 1973. Titan Polarimetric Evidence for an Optically Thick Atmosphere?Icarus, 18, 657–660.