Cheers, tears as sci­en­tists mark end of ‘a per­fect space­craft’

Oman Daily Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON: Cassini was an un­manned mis­sion, but Julie Web­ster ac­tu­ally sat in­side the space­craft be­fore its launch in Oc­to­ber 1997.

Af­ter Nasa re­ceived Cassini’s last trans­mis­sion on Friday as the space probe flew to its demise in Saturn’s at­mo­sphere, Web­ster, stood up in the Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory’s mis­sion con­trol arena in Pasadena, Cal­i­for­nia, ap­plauded and em­braced col­league Earl Maize, who had sim­i­larly worked most of his ca­reer on Cassini.

“I al­most have no words,” Web­ster, space­craft op­er­a­tions team man­ager for the 20-year mis­sion, told re­porters later in a press con­fer­ence. “I’ve been on this mis­sion since it was built.”

The Cassini-Huy­gens mis­sion, a co­op­er­a­tive project of Nasa, the European Space Agency and the Ital­ian Space Agency, was launched in Oc­to­ber 1997 and reached Saturn’s or­bit in 2004.

The Cassini orbiter launched in Oc­to­ber 1997 car­ry­ing the Huy­gens probe.

The space­craft came into Saturn’s grav­i­ta­tional in­flu­ence in 2004, and in 2005 jet­ti­soned the Huy­gens craft to ex­plore planet’s moons, char­ac­ter­is­tics.

Web­ster spoke at length about the en­gi­neers and sci­en­tists in the 1990s who de­signed and built CassiniHuy­gens — rec­on­cil­ing what was sci­en­tif­i­cally imag­in­able with the tech­ni­cally achiev­able.

She choked back emo­tions be­fore say­ing that the team “built a per­fect space­craft.”

“This has truly been be­yond my wildest dreams,” Web­ster said. Ti­tan, one of the ex­pos­ing Earth-like

— AFP

San­dra Martin (L), Carol Web­sterClaphan (C) and Mary Knoll, friends and fam­ily of Cassini team mem­bers, cel­e­brate the Cassini mis­sion at the end of mis­sion fi­nal press con­fer­ence, at Nasa’s Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory in Pasadena, Cal­i­for­nia.

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