The Saturn-bound Cassini spacecraft, the most complex and expensive unmanned space probe ever launched, will be the subject of a talk by the mission's science manager Sunday at the Valley College Planetarium.
Ellis Miner of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena will give an insider's view of the Cassini mission, using slides and videotape to illustrate the probe's progress.
The spacecraft was launched Oct. 15 amid controversy because it is carrying 72 pounds of plutonium as a power source. The craft is due to reach Saturn's orbit July 1, 2004. On its journey, it will receive a "gravitational assist" to pick up speed by using a planet's gravity like a slingshot.
The first assist occurred April 26, when Cassini passed within 176 miles of Venus. After a second Venus fly-by June 24, the craft will pass near Earth next August and Jupiter in 2000.