January was a huge month for the European aeronautics and space sector. The successful landing of Huygens on Saturn's moon Titan shared the limelight with the long-anticipated unveiling of the Airbus 380, a titan-sized aircraft in its own right. Both of these projects were the result of years of cutting-edge research and development by scientists dotted round Europe.
The European Space Agency's (ESA) Huygens probe made a historic descent to the surface of Titan, 1.2 billion kilometres from Earth and the largest of Saturn's moons. The space probe travelled to Titan as part of the joint European, American and Italian Cassini-Huygens mission.
|A peek inside Airbus' A380 series.|
Starting at about 150 kilometres above the moon's surface, six multi-function instruments on board Huygens recorded data during the descent and on the ground. The first scientific assessments of Huygens' data were presented during a press conference at ESA head office in Paris on 21 January.
The mission was named after Christiaan Huygens, the Dutch scientist who discovered Saturn's rings and, in 1655, trained his telescope on Titan, its largest moon. Italian Jean-Dominique Cassini discovered Saturn's satellites Lapetus, Rhea, Tethys and Dione. In 1675, he discovered what is known today as the 'Cassini Division', the narrow gap separating Saturn's rings.
The ESA is working with America's NASA and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) on the mission. NASA's Cassini spacecraft will orbit Saturn for four years, surveying the ringed planet and its moons. Huygens is the first probe to land on a world in the outer Solar System. Data from the expedition may offer clues about how life began on Earth.
The wraps are off!
Not since the Americans introduced the Boeing 747 in the late 1960s has the aeronautics sector taken such an enormous leap with the official unveiling of Airbus' super-sized A380 liner. As a strong symbol of the collaborative R&D effort needed to bring the aircraft to fruition, leaders from France, Germany, Spain and the UK stood alongside EU leaders at Airbus' factory at Blagnac airport near Toulouse (FR) to take a look under the wraps of the A-380 passenger jet, two months ahead of its maiden flight.
The world's press also took its first look at the biggest airliner yet built during an unveiling ceremony also attended by the heads of 14 airlines and operators - Airbus' A380 customers - and invited onlookers. Airbus' President and CEO Noël Forgeard said the success of the A380 programme embodied the "optimism and commitment" of European innovation and industry, driven by confidence in the future.
Using advanced technologies developed in Europe, it will be the most fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly airliner ever built. First passenger operations are scheduled to begin in 2006 when the A380 is due to enter service, with A380F expected in 2008.
Airbus is enormously proud of the world's first full-length twin-decked aircraft. The 555-seat plane has a range of up to 15 000km, allowing it to fly non-stop between Europe and Asia, while the three-deck long-range freighter version, the A380F, will be able to carry up to 152 tonnes of cargo on standard pallets over distances of up to 10 400km. Using advanced technologies, it will be the most fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly airliner ever built. First passenger operations are scheduled to begin in 2006 when the A380 is due to enter service, with A380F expected in 2008.
ESA, Airbus, Nasa, EASA