JPL loans Space Foundation a model of Huygens probe

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is loaning a full-scale model of the European Space Agency’s Huygens probe to the Colorado Springs-based Space Foundation.

The actual probe was part of the international Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, and was carried to the Saturn system by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft and plunged through the atmosphere of the moon Titan on Jan. 14, 2005.

“The Cassini-Huygens mission has revealed extraordinary information about the outer solar system and illustrates the kind of internationally cooperative space exploration that is revealing the universe to us,” said Space Foundation CEO Elliot Pulham. “We are thrilled JPL added this wonderful piece to our collection.”

The probe is named after Christian Huygens,a Dutch scientist who discovered Titan in 1655 and also discovered the true nature of Saturn’s rings.

When the probe landed on Titan, it became the first man-made object to land on a world in the outer solar system. Titan is the second largest moon and the only one with an atmosphere that resembles that of a very young Earth.

The Space Foundation, which moved into new headquarters last year, has been collecting artifacts and fundraising for a visitors’ center, which will open in phases over the next several years.

The visitors’ center will include the recently announced Northrop Grumman Science Center featuring Science on a Sphere, a teaching auditorium, a Space Technology Hall of Fame and displays of space artifacts and models. While not initially open to the public except for private visits and tours, the visitors’ center will eventually become a Colorado Springs tourist destination. A formal public debut of the first phase is planned for this fall.