Ambassador Ted Blank

Ted Blank   for webLast season, NASA Ambassador Ted Blank wowed everyone with incredibly beautiful photos and amazing information about Mars. This year, Blank is returning at 10 a.m. Oct. 30, to bring us news about the planet Saturn, as he recounts the Cassini-Huygens Mission to explore the second-largest planet in our solar system, its spectacular rings and its many moons. 

The spacecraft, a sophisticated robotic vehicle the size of a school bus, has been transmitting stunningly beautiful images and undreamed-of new discoveries since it arrived at Saturn in 2004, almost seven years after its launch. Its work was completed in its “grand finale,” a one-way trip deep into Saturn's atmosphere in September 2017 to send back important information about the giant gas planet. The mission team operated the spacecraft with perfect success. After losing contact with Earth, the spacecraft burned like a meteor, becoming part of the planet itself.

The Cassini mission, one of the most ambitious efforts in planetary space exploration ever mounted, is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian space agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI), as well as several separate European academic and industrial contributors.

Blank will describe how the mission’s Huygens probe completed the most distant landing from Earth in 2015, when it drifted down through the atmosphere of Saturn's giant moon, Titan, and landed on it. It found one of the most Earth-like worlds ever encountered, with weather, climate and geology, flooded canyons, dunes, mountains and stable liquid on its surface that is methane rather than water.

Blank first became interested in the solar system when, as a boy, he first glimpsed Jupiter and its moons through a telescope high in the Sierra Nevada. His life was changed forever. While Blank did not become an astronaut, his lifelong interest in space exploration and astronomy has led him to spend much of his free time as a solar system ambassador for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Blank is co-founder of the Fountain Hills Astronomy Club. As a passionate "sidewalk astronomer," he can often be found outside, sharing the views with the public, through his telescope. His amateur research interests include measuring the sizes and shapes of distant asteroids and searching for previously undiscovered binary-star systems. When not enjoying astronomy, Blank works as a performance engineer for a software company.

Tickets to all Monday Morning Lectures are $4 at the door of the Renaissance Theater.

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