Launched in 1997, the Cassini probe to Saturn completed its initial four-year mission in June 2008. The trip from Earth to Saturn took roughly seven years and entailed 2.2 billion miles. Although Cassini's nuclear power supply caused a brief controversy among environmentalists who fretted that the probe would come crashing down, spilling its 72 pounds of plutonium in Earth’s environment, Cassini has quietly gone about its work, rarely drawing much attention from the public except at the more “telegenic” moments of the mission.
With the release of the full report by the Augustine Committee only days away, NASA is making preparations to test a rocket vital to a space program that the Obama administration may be preparing to terminate.
With NASA Administrator Charles Bolden taking tentative steps toward more free market possibilities for America’s space program—and even mentioning the once-unspeakable topic of “space tourism”—a clown from Canada is already orbiting the Earth.