High winds ground Saturn mission as court bid fails

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The Independent Online
Court battles launched by environmentalists failed to stop the Cassini- Huygens mission to Saturn from getting off the launch pad yesterday. Instead, it was nature that held up the start of its 2.2 billion-mile journey.

High winds at 45,000ft meant the 182ft-high rocket was grounded by scientists at mission control in Florida but it still has a launch window extending to 15 November in order to complete its rendezvous with Titan, one of Saturn's moons, in seven years.

The legal challenges came from by environmentalists concerned about radiation contamination should the rocket, which has a nuclear power source, crash, spilling plutonium into the atmosphere. They failed, and scientists continued to try to reassure them yesterday that the odds of any leakage were 1,400- 1 against.

Technical hitches involving batteries and a computer contributed to yesterday's delay. However, the winds were above acceptable levels, according to mission control. The next suitable launch opportunity is tomorrow morning.