Huygens (probe)

Article

January 24, 2022

The Huygens probe was created by the European Space Agency and named after the 17th century Dutch astronomer Christian Huygens. The probe was launched on October 15, 1997 in conjunction with the Cassini spacecraft. On December 25, 2004, the probe separated from its carrier and began its independent movement towards Titan. On January 14, 2005, the Huygens probe successfully entered Titan's atmosphere and landed on its surface in a region known as Xanadu. It was the first (and as of 2022 the only) ever soft landing in the Outer Solar System. The probe sat on a hard surface, although landing in the ocean was also provided for by its design.

Goals

In total, Huygens had to perform five main tasks: Determine the physical characteristics of the atmosphere of Titan (density, pressure, temperature, and so on) depending on the height. Measure the percentage of the constituents of the atmosphere. Investigate chemical and, in particular, photochemical processes in the atmosphere, especially in relation to organic molecules, as well as the formation and composition of aerosols. Describe the meteorology of Titan, in particular cloud physics, lightning discharges, and general circulation. Explore the physical state, topography, and composition of Titan's surface.

Toolkit

To carry out scientific experiments, the Huygens probe was equipped with six instruments: Huygens Atmospheric Structure Instrument (HASI) - measuring the physical and electrical properties of Titan's atmosphere; Doppler Wind Experiment (DWE) - study of the direction and strength of Titan's winds; Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR) - Descent display and light level study; Gas chromatograph / mass spectrometer (Gas Chromatograph / Mass Spectrometer, GC / MS) - identification and measurement of the chemical composition of the atmosphere of Titan; Aerosol Collector and Pyrolyser (ACP) - analysis of atmospheric aerosol particles; Surface-Science Package (SSP) - Determination of surface properties.

Descent to Titan

Parachute descent through the atmosphere of Titan took the "Huygens"

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