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Space History Photo: Cassini Saturn Probe Undergoes Preflight Testing

space history, nasa, space probes, Saturn
The Cassini Saturn probe goes though vibration and thermal testing in October of 1996 in preparation for its four year mission. (Image credit: NASA.)

In this historical photo from the U.S. space agency, the newly-assembled Cassini Saturn probe undergoes vibration and thermal testing at the JPL facilities in Pasadena, California. It was subjected to weeks of "shake and bake" tests that imitate the forces and extreme temperatures the spacecraft will experience during launch and spaceflight.

Cassini's mission is to orbit Saturn for four years and study the planet, its rings and moons in detail. The large moon Titan is a principal target for exploration, and Cassini will carry the Huygens probe, (gold-mylar circular object seen here mounted on the front of the spacecraft) to be released to enter Titan's thick atmosphere and descend to the surface via parachute.

The Huygens probe is provided by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the radio antenna at top was provided by the Italian Space Agency (ASI). The project is a joint endeavor of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the program for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC.

Each weekday, SPACE.com looks back at the history of spaceflight through photos (archive).

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the U.S. government agency in charge of the civilian space program as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Founded in 1958, NASA is a civilian space agency aimed at exploring the universe with space telescopes,  satellites, robotic spacecraft, astronauts and more. The space agency has 10 major centers based across the U.S. and launches robotic and crewed missions from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida. It's astronaut corps is based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. To follow NASA's latest mission, follow the space agency on Twitter or any other social channel, of visit: nasa.gov