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The European Space Agency’s Huygens probe, the farthest lander to ever make it in the outer solar system, spun wildly in the opposite direction as expected as it descended onto one of Saturn’s moons. Now, scientists have finally figured out what went wrong, 15 years after the probe’s landing.
The circular device, shaped like a hamburger, measured 2.7 meters across and was launched aboard its mothership Cassini in October 1997. After a seven-year trek across the solar system, Huygens was released and directed onto Saturn’s moon Titan while maintaining a slow spin for stability.
Landing - Process - Problems - Huygens - Leg
The landing process was smooth at first, but problems soon appeared as Huygens during its final leg of the journey. With the parachute deployed, the lander began to descend onto the surface of Titan but its spin rate plummeted, then it suddenly started spinning in the completely wrong direction.
Luckily, the altercation didn’t throw the probe completely off course and it managed to touchdown on Titan before its batteries fizzled out 90 minutes later. Scientists were left puzzled as to how the probe, which spun anti-clockwise at a rate of 7.5 rotations per minute, suddenly flipped its direction...
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