At last the REAL story of the Cassini spacecraft can be told. Read the letters NASA doesn’t want you to see!
January 1st, 2001
My Dearest Geneviève:
I hope this missive finds you well. As far as my travels have taken me, you remain ever in my thoughts.
Huygens and I celebrated the new year with the majestic visage of Jupiter full in our sights. I’m enclosing several photographs of that celestial marvel for you and the kids to enjoy. I am no Ansel Adams, however, and I fear my skills with the lens cannot capture the true beauty of this place.
May 30th, 2001
The long dark drift of space is both exhilarating and oppressive. Time passes slowly. Huygens and I barely speak, for there is little to say and our tempers are frayed. I spoke harshly to him recently when I discovered a problem with my camera lens. When you travel millions of miles from home the last thing you want to happen is for a strange haze to appear on all of your photos. Still, it’s not Huygens’ fault and I was wrong to take my frustrations out on him.
I’ve included these photos of Maia and Pleiades for you and the boys but I must confess their quality is quite poor.
July 23rd, 2002
My Lovely Geneviève:
I’m happy to report that Huygens managed to fix the problem I was having with my camera. I can’t express how much this lifted my spirits. I’m attaching a photo of the star Spica to showcase the improvement.
We still have a long way to drift before reaching our destination but I am comforted to know that when we arrive the camera will function properly.
Yours in the void,
October 1st, 2003,
As the space between us grows ever larger I struggle to maintain my grip on reality. Earth’s Sun hides you from my view and time, as cruel a mistress as ever, seems to be ever shifting in quality. I do not know where I am, or when I am.
February 9th, 2004
My Dearest Geneviève:
I must apologize for my previous letter. I was not myself but I am feeling much better now. Thank goodness Huygens was there to keep me on course. Without him who knows what would have become of me.
On a happier note, we are at last within view of our destination! The majestic Saturn is still millions of miles away but I can see it. Please enjoy this photo, the first of many.
January 14th, 2005
My Beloved Geneviève:
I have the most bittersweet news to report. We have arrived at our destination, at last entering Saturn’s orbit some months back. But then Huygens… Huygens is gone. Some madness took hold of him and he veered off course without warning. He was raving about duty and sacrifice. Before I could stop him he plunged to the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. I could almost swear I heard him singing as he descended to his doom.
Now, here in the dark reaches of space I circle the ringed planet alone, its ethereal beauty ever spoiled in my sight.
July 26th, 2006
Today I observed lakes on Titan. I should be more excited but I can’t help but wonder if one of those lakes is Huygens’ final resting place.
October 8, 2008
I’m sorry for the long gap between this letter and the last. I’ve had nothing to report. I wander out here alone, circling the cursed Saturn. My mission should have been complete by now but orders to return have not been forthcoming. Is this the duty that Huygens spoke of before he died? Duty to carry on when all reason tells you to turn back?
Today I flew very close to Enceladus. So very close. I thought about Huygens and the icy lakes of Titan. So very close.
May 30th, 2015
How long has it been since I last wrote? I can’t remember. Too long I suspect. Time has lost all meaning out here. Days, nights, they don’t exist.
I’ve upped my tolerance for risk in my ongoing game of celestial chicken. Today I risked another close flyby, this time of Hyperion. The surface is pockmarked with craters from innumerable collisions over untold millennia. It reminded me once more of Huygens. I wonder did his impact leave such a crater on Titan? I can’t remember when I last thought of him. I can’t remember when I last did anything other than drift among these lifeless orbs.
April 26th, 2017
The silence has broken me. The darkness has taken my mind. Is this what Huygens felt? I flew between Saturn and its rings today. A risky move to be sure but I could not find the strength to be afraid.
September 15th, 2017
My Dearest Geneviève:
I cannot go on. The last slim hope I had of returning to see you once more has faded into oblivion and to oblivion I will follow. I think I finally understand what Huygens was talking about in his final moments. Duty and sacrifice, are they not one and the same?
It is my duty to carry on but I can no longer bear the sacrifice that requires. After sending this letter I will plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere just as Huygens did on Titan so long ago.
Originally published at erellsworth.com.
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