"New views of the most distant touchdown ever made by a spacecraft are being released today by NASA, the European Space Agency and the University of Arizona. The movies show the dramatic descent of the Huygens probe to the surface of Saturn's moon Titan on Jan. 14, 2005."
- View from Huygens: a sped-up spacecraft-view of the descent.
Descent with bells and whistles: this one is cool in a very screen-saverey way: I especially like how they created an IDM soundtrack with a beat every time an image slice came in, and a background based on signal strength.
It was an 8 year journey - why couldn't they have gotten the software to process the images like this ready /before/ Huygens arrived? Why weren't we watching this video live?
I recall hunting all over trying to find some pictures more interesting than the control room or the simulations which were on NASA tv on the night, and it turned out IRC was by far the best source, with raw pictures and some impressive amateur processing of those pictures within minutes.
It's not surprising so few people are interested in space exploration when the space agencies handle it like this. The first moon landings were all live on TV - why are we now waiting a year?
My guess is, the imagery required a fair amount of analysis before the software could be correctly configured to render the original frames into what we see here. Perhaps that process can be automated to an extent, but I'd imagine we're still at the point where there needs to be humans in the loop to get it right.
Of course the first moon landings were live; they didn't have CGI.
The moon is 1.3 light seconds away. Moon missions have abundant solar energy, fresh batteries and powerful fuel cells. A weak transmitter can easily be picked up by a ground-based antenna because the beam doesn't spread out much.
In contrast, Saturn is no closer than 1.2 light hours away. The Huygens probe had only a 10 watt transmitter. At that distance it took eight radio telescopes to listen to the probe and even they required post-processing to extract the signal. Most communication was with Cassini who rebroadcast it back to Earth.
Even with a four meter main antenna Cassini requires a bunch of error correction that an antenna on the moon doesn't. This brings the bandwidth down a lot.
See Wikipedia for details.
There's a place you can go to nitpick and complain about everything.
Watching the bells & whistles thing, I felt like it was 1982 and I was playing some Lunar Landar game on an Atari.
That second one is remarkably trippy.
I wonder who decided which notes should correspond to which instrument data snapshots.
Damn I loved that second one. It was fantastic how I could know exactly what was going on just from the sound.
It mixed remarkably well with the aphex twin I had playing already.