Hayabusa Asteroid Mission



At last, on July 1, 2004, the Cassini spacecraft fired off its breaking rocket, glided into orbit around Saturn, and started taking pictures that left scientists in awe. It wasn't as if they hadn't been prepared for such wonders. The weeks leading up to Cassini's arrival at Saturn had served to intensify their already heated anticipation. It seemed as if each approach-picture taken was more enticing than the one preceding it. The tiny moon--which for now has been designated S/2015 (136472) 1, and playfully nicknamed MK 2, for short--is more than 1,300 times dimmer than Makemake itself. MK 2 was first spotted when it was about 13,000 miles from its dwarf planet parent, and its diameter is estimated to be about 100 miles across. Makemake is 870 miles wide, and the dwarf planet, which was discovered over a decade ago, is named for the creation deity of the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island. Titan: Titan, the tormented, hydrocarbon-slashed largest moon of Saturn--and the second largest moon in our Solar System, after Ganymede--could possess a subsurface, salty ocean that may well be as salty as the Dead Sea on Earth. The salty water could begin approximately 31 to 62 miles beneath Titan's icy shell, according to recent estimates. Meanwhile, on Titan's smog enshrouded surface, "life as we do not know it" could swim in alien lakes and rivers that flow with liquid methane and ethane hydrocarbons--instead of water.