But it is through space exploration that we have discovered most about Saturn, with 3 flybys in 2 years revealing the complexity of its world. The first was completed in 1979 by Pioneer 11, a probe designed to explore the outer solar system. Its journey to within 200,000 kilometres of the planet revealed the existence of an extra ring.
In 1980 and 1981, Voyager 1 and 2 discovered several new satellites, unveiled the complexity of Saturn’s ring system, and revealed high levels of nitrogen in Titan’s atmosphere.
Launched in 1997, the CASSINI-HUYGENS probe reached Saturn on July 1st, 2004. The Cassini orbiter should help us understand Saturn’s magnetosphere and interactions with its satellites, rings and the solar wind.
|If you were on Saturn…|
…you couldn’t breathe in the hydrogen-rich atmosphere;
…you’d be torn apart by the violent winds;
…even supposing you survived the high atmospheric pressure, you wouldn’t be able to find any solid ground;
…as you penetrated its atmosphere, the Sun and Saturn’s rings would become lost behind a thick veil of clouds.
How interplanetary trajectories work
CASSINI-HUYGENS, rendezvous with Saturn