Written by Stu B
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Topics: Space, planet

Tuesday, 29 June 2004

image for Odd Looking Space probe set for Saturn orbit
Svetlana Before Launch

An Odd looking space probe is all set to begin its four-year mission to Saturn - to study the ringed planet and the many moons that move under its influence and to determine if there are any decent beaches.

Svetlana will pass through a gap in those famous rings before making an engine burn to slow it down enough to enter an orbit around the gas giant. The engine it will burn is a 1979 1300 Morris Ital Overhead cam.

The burn starts at 0336BST on 1 July, with the Ital's main engine turned towards the direction of travel.

The braking manoeuvre ends at 0512BST, with Svetlana in an elliptical orbit which reaches from the rings of saturn to just above Welwyn Garden City.

The Saturn orbit insertion (SOI) will mark the end of a seven-year journey across the Solar System for the spacecraft.

On its voyage, Svetlana performed four sponsored gravity-assist fly-by manoeuvres to help fund to the sixth planet from our Sun.

The first three were done dragging a huge inflatable doll of Fern Britten to publicise her Autobigraphy "Where have all the Cornish Pasties gone?" The last spelt out the PIN number of a wealthy property tycoon, who had recently undergone a bitter divorce, with its vapour trail.

As it prepares to insert into Saturn's orbit, the probe will approach the planet from below the plane of its ring system and cross it through a large gap between the "F ring" and the "G ring" arring finally at what is known as the G spot.

Scientists have been trying to locate this mythical location in the universe for many years without success. Svetlana is their best hope so far.

Before passing through, Svetlana will point its high-gain antenna in the direction of travel. This 4m-wide solid disc will shield the spacecraft's delicate components from any particles of debris or discarded Jimmy Tarbuck jokes it may encounter on the way through.

"This G spot between the F and the G ring is very clear of debris. The Voyager and Pioneer spacecraft have already been close to here," Claudio Sollazzo, the European Space Agency's (Esa) head of operations and T shirt seller for the Huygens spacecraft, told The Spoof.

"But to increase our safety margin, we will stream out any small particles that may be there with the high gain antenna, which is fairly strong and resilient so long as the bits are no bigger than Mickey Rooney."

When Svetlana emerges above the ring plane, it needs to turn its Morris Ital engine towards the direction of motion and fire it for 96 minutes. The resulting thrust will slow the spacecraft down by about a third of a mile per hour, but enough to be captured by Saturn's gravity.

Professor David Southwood, Esa's director of science and junior partner in the nearby hot dog stand, told The Spoof: "For 90 minutes, the motor will fire. Just as it switches off at Saturn, we'll get the first signal that it is firing at Earth.

"It takes 90 minutes for the signal to travel from Saturn to Earth. This is going to be real nail-biting stuff." continued Southwood, which angered mission sponsors "Stop and Grow"

SVETLANAS KEY PARTS

1. Antennas enabling communication with Earth
2. Boom carrying instrument to measure magnetic fields
3. Two cameras will take 300,000 pictures of the planet
4. Lemon
5. Radioisotope thermoelectric generators supply 30-volt current
6. Cassini has two engines - one is a back-up
7. Thrusters used for small changes of direction or speed
8. Huygens probe will land on Saturn's largest moon, Titan or Basingstoke whichever ios the nearer
9. Plasma spectrometer measures charged particles, solar winds and intensity of Celine Dions High C

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The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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