An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: Thirty-five years ago today, a NASA spacecraft got an up-close look at beautiful, enigmatic Saturn. On Aug. 25, 1981, the Voyager 2 probe zoomed within 26,000 miles (41,000 kilometers) of the ringed planet’s cloud tops. The discoveries made by Voyager 2 — and by its twin, Voyager 1, which had flown past Saturn nine months earlier — reshaped scientists’ understanding of the Saturn system and planted the seed for NASA’s Cassini mission, which began orbiting the ringed planet in 2004, NASA officials said. Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 launched a few weeks apart in 1977, tasked with performing a “grand tour” of the solar system’s big planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The two spacecraft accomplished that goal, eyeing all four gaseous worlds up close, and also studying 48 of their moons. (Voyager 1 flew past Jupiter and Saturn, while Voyager 2 had close encounters with all four planets.) The Voyagers weren’t the first spacecraft to fly by Saturn; that distinction belongs to NASA’s Pioneer 11 probe, which did so in 1979. But the Voyagers broke a lot of new ground; they discovered four new Saturn moons, for example, and revealed an incredible diversity of landscapes on satellites such as Dione, Tethys and Iapetus, NASA officials said. August 25th appears to be a good day for nerds. You can view some out-of-this-world photos from NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 probes here.
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