December 17, 2004
A Digital Video Disk (DVD) bearing 616,400 digitized signatures of people from nations around the world has been attached to the Cassini spacecraft and will soon be on its way to Saturn. The disk cover, designed by Cassini science and engineering manager Charley Kohlhase, shows the flags from 28 of the 81 nations whose citizens sent signatures for the chance to send their names into space. The planet Saturn with its rings and its moon Titan and the Earth are also represented, as is the Cassini spacecraft and its Huygens probe. The feathers represent the Golden Eagle, whose feathers were used as quills for writing to spread wisdom. The bird is revered in mythology for carrying spirits above the Earth to the heavens. The flags, going clockwise from the American flag top center, are in order of the number of signatures collected, with the highest number from the United States.
The disk is fitted into a shallow cavity between two pieces of aluminum that will protect it from micrometeoroid impacts. The package will be mounted to the side of the 2-story- tall spacecraft beneath a pallet carrying cameras and other science instruments that will be used to study the Saturnian system. A specially designed, multicolored patch of thermal blanket material will be installed over the disk package.
Cassini is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the
Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the
California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Cassini
mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.
For a high resolution image, click here.