Destination Titan

Synopsis: This documentary explain, what it took to reach Titan, the first and, so far, only landing ever accomplished in the outer Solar System.
60 min

January 14, 2005,

the day had finally arrived -

the day that I'd thought about

every day for 17 years.

near Saturn, there was something

that we'd built and it was hurtling

through space at 20,000 mph.

Would it do just what we'd designed

it to do or would it all be wasted?

We went into the science room

that morning

knowing that whatever

was going to happen

was going to happen,

and this was the day.

There was an enormous

air of expectation.

Basically anyone I met

was as excited but also as nervous

as I was about the whole mission.

Frankly I think we

were all petrified.

But the very worst thing that

shouldn't have happened, happened.

And it turned out it was a

major problem.

I just wanted to go away

and cry in a corner.

That really ramped up the nerves and there's

a missing command, what else is wrong?

I really had visions now of

the last 17 years having been wasted.

"Red Planet Rock"

by Don Lang & His Frantic Five

# Everybody, watch the sky

# The weather's all jumping

and I'll tell you why... #

Growing up in the late 50s,

all I knew about space travel was

probably from reading about Dan Dare,

for example, in the Eagle comic.

I knew very little about the planets,

probably from schoolbooks.

All we knew was from often rather blurry,

indistinct images from telescopes on the ground.

I think I knew that Saturn

was a large ball of gas.

We call it a gas giant, and it was

about 1 billion miles away from us

here on the Earth, but I certainly

didn't know anything about Titan.

I didn't know that it was one of

Saturn's moons orbiting around it.

I mean you have to remember we didn't

have any spacecraft images of course,

and then something happened

to change all of that.

'Half an hour ago,

the Russians announced

'that they had put

the first man into space.

'It's the voice in space of

Major Yuri Gagarin.'

'It must be

one of the greatest scientific

'events for one of the greatest

occasions in the history of man.'

It was absolutely mind-boggling.

It's impossible now really to

imagine the impact that it made.

Man in space.

Excuse me, what do you think of

the news? I think it's fantastic.

Well, I can tell you he's now back,

safe and sound. Really?

I didn't think he would get back.

Well, I say, very best of British

good luck to the chap myself.

Within months of Gagarin's flight,

he embarked on a world tour

and I think it's true that the first port

of call was the United Kingdom and London.

Major Gagarin, could you tell us what you

think of the reception of the British public?



The welcome I have been given by the

British public has been overwhelming.

It has been most friendly and kind.


'I see smiling faces everywhere...'

What about you,

would you like to be a spaceman?

Oh, well, it all depends.

If it comes up, like everybody

in a kind of craze,

I think I might have a go.

You might have a go, might you? Yes.

What did you think of the Major?

I liked his uniform and I like

the company all around us.

The school that I was at, Highgate,

was very close to Highgate Cemetery.

Of course, every visiting Russian dignitary

had to visit the tomb of Karl Marx.

I remember school was cancelled

for the afternoon.

It was such a big event, you know, Gagarin

coming to London, coming to Highgate.

I think I only decided to come

along here at the last minute.

I'm not sure why. I don't know if I'm a believer

in fate but it must have been fate, mustn't it?

And it was my eureka moment -

seeing that man standing here -

a small man, but the thought he had been

in space for what was it, 96 minutes?

The first astronaut,

and I was hooked from that moment on.

The Gagarin flight

was really what kickstarted it all.

It really took us out of that

science fiction era

into the era of practicality,

and one can see it as the first step

on our exploration

of the solar system with humans

and also with robotic spacecraft.

It's one of those things, if you

grew up in the late 60s, early 70s,

you know, space was everywhere.

It was the most exciting thing, you

just wanted to be involved in it,

probably couldn't even

imagine that you would be.

There was a little bit of affluence

and some of the social boundaries

and barriers were breaking down.

There was the so-called Youth

Revolution and I was caught up

in many of the demonstrations that

were going on against the Vietnam War.

It was a fascinating time.


That's one small step for man,

one giant leap for mankind.

I was always interested in space.

I was interested in

unmanned space exploration,

seeing other planets up close.

All of this helped us cement,

I think, this hope,

this dream that I had that I could

actually take this further.

I could get my physics degree.

I could then perhaps do a PhD,

and really move to be a part of

this whole worldwide space activity.

I stir it up with my feet.

There it is, I can see it from here.

It's orange.

AMERICAN NEWSREEL: Only once every

Jupiter, Saturn,

Uranus, and Neptune -

so aligned that a spacecraft can

visit all four on a single flight.

The rare opportunity to probe

these planets occurs in this decade,

the 1970s, and will not recur until

the middle of the 22nd century.

Most of what we knew about

Titan, at least at this time,

was from the Voyager spacecraft.

We knew that Titan was about 5,000 km in

diameter, so bigger than the planet Mercury.

It had a thick atmosphere.

This is what really made it stand out

amongst all of the planetary

satellites in the solar system.

It's the only one that does.

But we knew essentially

nothing about the surface

because Titan is permanently shrouded

in orange haze or smog,

which meant that none of the images

showed anything of the surface.

We know it's very cold.

Saturn and its satellites

are so far from the sun.

The atmosphere is very complex,

it was known to have at least 12

different gases and probably having

some similarity to Earth's

very primitive atmosphere,

one that we lost

probably billions of years ago.

There was organic chemistry on Titan which was

interesting but that Titan wasn't warm enough

to have a liquid water which of course is one

of the prerequisites for life as we know it.

And I think Titan sort of faded

into the background in a sense

for much of the following decade.

Well, towards the end of the 1970s,

jobs in British universities

were very difficult to come by

and I saw an advertisement,

which was very hard to resist, to go

and work on a project called Giotto.

Now Giotto was Europe's Halley's

Comet mission and the job was at the

University of Kent to be project

manager for the dust instrument.

I applied and I got it so, at the

end of 1981, we moved to Canterbury

on a two-year contract and I

ended up staying there 18 years.

Giotto flew 594 km from

the nucleus of Halley's Comet.

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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