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Trina L. Ray

Ray photo
Senior Member of Technical Staff /
Co-chair TOST Institution
Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
California Institute of Technology
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, CA 91109

Research Summary:
  • Titan Science Planning and Science Operations

Title 1: Mysterious Titan: Exploring the Largest Moon of Saturn

Abstract 1:

Titan, Saturn's largest moon and the only moon in the solar system enshrouded in a thick atmosphere, has fascinated observers since its discovery in 1655. We'll begin with the discovery of Titan by Christiaan Huygens and quickly cover all the major scientific discoveries about this intriguing moon right up to the amazing results that are flowing back now from the Cassini-Huygens Mission. The Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn, a joint NASA-ESA-ASI mission, was launched in 1997 and reached Saturn in July of 2004. The Huygens probe, released from the Cassini orbiter on Christmas day of that same year, drifted down to the surface of Titan on January 14th of 2005, returning spectacular images and data to a world-wide audience. The Cassini orbiter has gone on to complete almost 80 close flybys of Titan and has revealed the surface, which is normally hidden by a thick nitrogen-rich atmosphere filled with aerosols, to be a complex, exciting, and remarkably earth-like place. There are miles and miles of dunes, lakes of methane and ethane, and exotic features that might possibly be ice volcanos. The atmosphere itself is more dense than Earth's and is a soup of complex hydrocarbons. Humanity has been fascinated by the solar systemís second largest moon for hundreds of years; and we're sitting at a ring-side seat as Titan reveals its mysteries to us.  

Title 2: Voyager Ė 12,396 Days and Still Going

Abstract 2:

The twin Voyager spacecraft are considered by many to be the most successful robotic explorers in the history of NASA. The planned MJS (Mariner Jupiter Saturn) mission was extended to include Voyager 2 flybys of the planets Uranus and Neptune using the relatively new idea of ďgravity-assistĒ - a breakthrough for exploration of the solar system. The Voyager mission returned extraordinary science results from flybys of all four giant plants: including how active their atmospheres were with high-speed jet streams, and large storm systems, etc.. We also learned that all 4 planets have ring systems, not just the majestic Saturn. And, finally, the amount of data returned about the numerous and amazingly diverse icy satellites sparked the desire to send many new missions to those worlds, including Europa and Titan. After having been on a journey exploration for more than 26 years, the Voyagers continue to return data, and even as Voyager 1 surpasses 90 AU and approaches the heliopause the discoveries continue. This evening we will learn all about the Voyager Mission, from itís breakthrough trajectory, the basics of the spacecraft, itís stunning science results, and what itís doing now.  


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