I'm ok. I was just working on an orbit insertion countdown widget for my desktop. Smiley

Good question! The Cassini spacecraft is nuclear powered, yes. (The Cassini mission will last at least 5 years. There's a lot to explore in the Saturnian system. Nuclear power was the only reasonable way to go.) However, the Huygens probe, the little probe that's going to Titan (and is hitchiking on Cassini), is not. 

So, don't worry, my friends, we won't pollute Titan's atmosphere with radioactive chemicals. Then again, the probe will remain on the surface (either on land or in one of the speculative hydrocarbon oceans). I don't see this as being a problem on Titan. I tend to think about it this way: we're giving away some really innovative and powerful scientific measurement devices. When an intelligent life form on Titan happens upon the probe, all they will need to do is figure out how to power the instruments. I think it's unfortunate we didn't send along a cd player with some music and greetings. Oh yeah, and some instructions for how to use the mass spectrometer.

If Cassini crashes into Saturn, besides being a really, really sad day for anybody who is curious about how solar systems and life emerge in the Universe, nothing significant will happen from Saturn's perspective. The Cassini probe is not a nuclear bomb. Even if it was, it would have virtually zero impact on Saturn if it exploded in its atmosphere. This is not going to happen. Let's not speculate on this.

The Saturn orbit insertion will mark the beginning of the end for the current way we think about life in the Universe. 

Very interesting things await us on Titan...


Charles