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Thread: PBS Nova "Voyage to the Mystery Moon" Titan, April 4

  1. #1
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    PBS Nova "Voyage to the Mystery Moon" Titan, April 4

    Voyage to the Mystery Moon

    Description:

    Chronicling a bold voyage of discovery—the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn and its enigmatic moon Titan—"Voyage to the Mystery Moon" delivers striking images of these fascinating planetary bodies nearly a billion miles from Earth. Saturn's broad rings hold myriad mysteries, and Titan, whose soupy atmosphere is similar to the one that enshrouded our planet billions of years ago, may hold clues to the origins of life. In hopes of answering some long-standing astrophysical questions, teams from NASA and the European Space Agency gamble years of effort to both ease the Cassini spacecraft into a workable orbit around Saturn and land the Huygens probe on Titan's never-before-seen surface.
    (Consult local listings. Dates and times vary.)
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    That should be good. Another robot/science story. I loved the Great Robot Race episode last week on the DARPA challenge. The robots are coming! The robots are coming! Heh.

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  3. #3
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    I just finished watching it. Not bad. It featured interviews with many of the key people behind the mission. There wasn't too much science in it. It was more of a history of the Cassini space probe and the Huygens lander.

    It explained in laymen's terms the trajectory the spacecraft would take on its way to Saturn and briefly went into the gravity assist maneuvers. Also, they went into the whole communication problem that Huygens had with Cassini. I knew about it, but never knew when the problem was discovered (you learn something new every day).

    The show ended with pictures from the surface of Titan. Even though I had seen them on the web, they were still breathtakingly beautiful.

    All in all, a pretty good science documentary for a general audience.

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    Just how many movies did they reference in the soundtrack?

    Nova likes to use the Ark theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark. I thought I recognized some Lord of the Ring themes (they did call Saturn the Lord of the Rings). There were a couple of pieces that seemed familiar but I couldn't place them.

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    It was a most enjoyable program. I wish they'd had a two-hour slot to work with -- an hour dedicated to Huygens and another hour to Cassini itself would have been excellent, but I realize there was a lot to cover in precious little time.

    My only gripe (pretty much standard issue these days, though): depictions of sounds in space. Does the general public really need fake ear candy?

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    Re: PBS Nova "Voyage to the Mystery Moon" Titan, April 4

    Quote Originally Posted by Wolverine
    It was a most enjoyable program. I wish they'd had a two-hour slot to work with -- an hour dedicated to Huygens and another hour to Cassini itself would have been excellent, but I realize there was a lot to cover in precious little time.
    Agreed, although with just one hour there were many scenes (mostly CGI) that were repeated exactly, while some were mirror images or clips of previous scenes. Fortunately there wasn't that much repetition in the narrative, possibly as a result of of PBS' non-commercial format.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wolverine
    My only gripe (pretty much standard issue these days, though): depictions of sounds in space. Does the general public really need fake ear candy?
    One of the drawbacks of living in the post-Star Wars world. I found the thuds of the ring particles quite amusing, although if one had direct physical contact between your head and one of the ring particles, you'd hear something. Of course if you were between large-enough colliding particles, you'd feel something too (for a moment). Then there was the usual overpopulated asteroid belt.

    Good things included identifying Venus as our nearest planetary neighbor (lost count a long time ago how many times Mars gets misidentified as such), Carolyn Porco's commentaries in general, and especially her explanation of what makes space exploration so fascinating and fullfilling, and finally, there being no mention of Cassini being powered by RTGs containing deadly, lethal, Earth-threatening, the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it plutonium. I'm still in shock.

    Oh yeah, and no variable G either.

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    I thought the show was pretty good, but a little light on the actual science. I was delighted to see many of the principles from the Cassini/Huygens team given the chance to offer their perspectives. I've read dozens of papers by these people and it was nice to put faces and voices to them.

    They didn't mention the Channel A problem on Cassini and the resultant loss of the Doppler Wind Experiment (DWE) data and some of the images. I think they could probably devote an entire show to how measurements taken by an array of radio telescopes on Earth were able to save the DWE from being a total loss.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Shade
    Also, they went into the whole communication problem that Huygens had with Cassini. I knew about it, but never knew when the problem was discovered (you learn something new every day).
    Yes. I'm glad they covered this, but I wished they would have mentioned Boris Smeds. He was the engineer that uncovered the flaw and, through his dogged determination, was able to get the necessary tests done to show that there was a problem.

    All in all it was a very enjoyable program.

  8. #8
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    I have a friend who worked on that mission. Had something to do with the pictures, I think (he explained it, but he used big, science-y words, so I don't remember). He's also the only person I know personally who's appeared on MythBusters.
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    I didn't much like their treatment of the Huygens relay problem. They described the Doppler shift as the solution, when it's closer to the truth that the Doppler shift was the problem - and had to be minimized for Huygens and Cassini to communicate.
    Everything I need to know I learned through Googling.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToSeek
    I didn't much like their treatment of the Huygens relay problem. They described the Doppler shift as the solution, when it's closer to the truth that the Doppler shift was the problem - and had to be minimized for Huygens and Cassini to communicate.
    I agree. A nice graphic (like Figure 2 of this document) showing the redesigned versus the original trajectory coupled with an explanation of how this changed the Doppler shift would have been nice.

  11. #11
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    The great size of the probe was apparent. The fact that the craft had to do loops even with the Titan IV's boost shows how LV development must continue for grander probes to be possible.

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    I thought the illustration was the best example for grasping gravity-assist that I've seen. That is, look how long it spent "drafting" Venus?

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