Saturnine humor

This is a followup from the post I made about the Titan-landing-Eve tailgate party thrown by the Planetary Society. One of the speakers was Dr. Linda Spilker, Cassini Deputy Project Scientist/Principal Research Scientist. She gave a recap of the Cassini mission thus far, and showed a couple of images making the rounds among Cassini team members before SOI.

SOI is a TLA —those TLAs are beloved at JPL –that stands for Saturn Orbit Insertion, that nail-biting event last July when Cassini went from being a spacecraft traveling more or less in a straight line to one that made a left turn that’d send Cassini into circles. Specifically circles around Saturn. Which orbit (newly inserted) turned Cassini into the most recent of Saturn’s moons.

We all blissfully (or ignorantly) look upon that event as a Thing of The Past. But when it was Yet A Future Event, that make-or-break moment loomed large in the minds of many.

Artist Dave Seal created an image that expressed the Worst Case Scenario for certain scientists and engineers. Behold the Ring of Cassini’s Doom, and (if things turned out this way) why SOI was SOL.

sauron eye saturn

A detail of what is on Saturn’s rings:

detail of saturn's ring

The image below was from a Tee Shirt which was not created at JPL, but was worn there.

saturn suitcase rings

I asked Dr. Spilker if she would send me the images, and, now that the initial Huygens/Titan landing euphoria has worn off, she has done so. (Hooray and thanks!)