The country's most recent interplanetary effort, Nozomi, ended in failure when the craft helplessly sped past Mars in late 2003, unable to fire its braking rocket
(S&T: April 2004, page 16).
When July 1st came and the spacecraft fired its braking rocket
, slipped into Saturnian orbit, and started taking pictures, astronomers of all ages watched in awe.
Cassini fired its braking rocket
for 96 minutes when it swept closest to the planet--while diving through the gap between Saturn's outer F and G rings.
Cassini and Huygens, the hitchhiking European probe that will explore the largest Saturnian satellite, Titan, were to begin orbiting Saturn early on July 1st (Universal Time) after a 96-minute firing of a braking rocket
. Cassini marks the first return to the planet by spacecraft since Voyager 2's historic flyby 23 years ago.
The spacecraft fired a braking rocket
at 9:01 Universal Time, and telemetry indicated all was well as the spacecraft passed behind Mars and out of touch with Earth.
New Horizons doesn't carry the propellant needed to fire braking rockets
that would trim its speed so it could slip into orbit.
At 2:28 p.m., the capsule's braking rockets
fired for 9 minutes and 50 seconds, dropping the far side of its orbit deep into the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.
Once in space, the capsule is designed to run through a pre-programmed set of manoeuvres to test its steering thrusters, navigation system and other equipment critical to flight, then fire its braking rockets
to leave orbit.
Shuttle commander Frederick "C.J." Sturckow and pilot Kevin Ford fired the shuttle's twin braking rockets
at 4:47 p.m.