The international spacecraft Cassini, launched in 1997, has been orbiting the ringed planet Saturn since mid-2004. The mission is led by the U.S. space agency NASA. One of the most important instruments on board the spacecraft is the remote sensing instrument "ISS" (Imaging Science Subsystem), that is operated by the Cassini imaging team, a group of 14 scientists from the U.S.A. and three western European countries. The research objective of the scientists from Freie Universität is to study the surfaces of the Saturn moons photogeologically as well as to learn more about the planet's origin and evolution.
"Now we have the financial basis for continuing our observations of Saturn's moons and the analysis of data in our group at Freie Universität for the upcoming years," states Professor Gerhard Neukum of the Cassini imaging team at the Institute of Geological Sciences. Originally, the Cassini mission was scheduled to end mid-2008 after four years of orbit in the Saturn system. The mission has now been extended by two years and will be continued at least through mid-2010 – and likely even longer. Detailed planning for this extended mission has been underway by NASA's imaging team including researchers from Freie Universität Berlin for the past months.