Huygens heads for Saturn's moon Titan
The European space probe headed on Saturday for a historic up-close encounter with the moon after separating from US craft Cassini.
The European-made space probe Huygens headed on Saturday for a historic up-close encounter with Titan, the only celestial body of the Solar system with an atmosphere resembling that of Earth, after successfully separating from the US spacecraft Cassini.
The mission may help prove, or disprove, a long-held hypothesis that Titan may even have rain as well as lakes and rivers, albeit containing not water by unknown muddy substances.
"The probe successfully detached from the Cassini orbiter," Rosemary Sullivant, a spokeswoman for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told AFP in a brief telephone interview.
"They received the signal, I think, at 7:24 (0324 GMT Saturday) this evening Pacific time," she said. "All systems performed as expected, and no problems were reported."
It will take Huygens 20 days to reach Titan. The European probe is scheduled to arrive at its destination on January 14.
At separation time, specially designed springs gently pushed Huygens away from Cassini onto a ballistic four-million-kilometre (about 2.5-million-mile) path toward Titan, officials said.
And then, it was on its way.