San Jose State professor invests 26 years into Saturn research

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Friday marks the end of the Cassini-Huygens mission to explore Saturn, its rings and its moons.

San Jose State Engineering professor Essam Marouf is still analyzing data the spacecraft and probe have transmitted back to Earth since its launch in October of 1997 from Cape Canaveral.

His work predates the launch as one of the original members of the Radio Science Team who proposed, refined and submitted experiments.

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His 26 years working on Cassini mission experiments is his life's work.

We visited Dr. Marouf today in his second floor lab at San Jose State, ahead of his trip Friday to Pasadena to be on hand as the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) will guide the Cassini to its demise, tumbling toward the surface of Saturn, avoiding its moons. It's expected to burn up and break apart, destroying any Earthly microcrobes on board that might have survived 13 years in orbit, avoiding any possible contamination. The Cassini is running out of fuel.

Dr. Marouf says he was involved in just over 100 radio experiments involving data collection of Saturrn's rings and about 20 experiments focused on the moon Titan. His final experiment was conducted on July 19. He said it takes 80 minutes for signals to reach Cassini from Earth and another 80 minutes for data to be transmitted back.

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Scientists have only begun to analyze all the data collected, which will keep Dr. Marouf busy for another year.

Since its arrival in 2004, Cassini hasn't even observed an entire Saturn year, which lasts 29 Earth years.

Click here for a list of Cassini's top discoveries by year.

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