NASA's Reveals Plans for Cassini's Final Year Orbiting Saturn

Monday, 19 September 2016 - 6:31PM
Space
Solar System
Monday, 19 September 2016 - 6:31PM
NASA's Reveals Plans for Cassini's Final Year Orbiting Saturn
After an historic voyage, Cassini is about to kamikaze into Saturn. In one year, the long-lasting mission will finally come to an end when Cassini-Huygens enters Saturn's atmosphere, destroying itself instantly.

On September 15, exactly one year before Cassini takes its last bow, NASA released a recent video of Saturn and plans for Cassini's "grand finale."



Opening quote
NASA's Cassini spacecraft stared at Saturn for nearly 44 hours in April 2016 to obtain this movie showing four Saturn days.

Cassini will begin a series of dives between the planet and its rings in April 2017, building toward a dramatic end of mission — a final plunge into the planet, six months later.
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Cassini launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004. In the last twelve years, it has accomplished the first landing outside of our Solar System (on Saturn's moon Titan in 2005), found evidence of a subsurface ocean on Enceladus, and sent back countless photos and videos of Saturn and its amazing rings. Starting November 30, it will begin exploring those rings in more depth, traveling outside the F-rings (the main rings) and observe their distinctive braided structure. 

Opening quote
"During the F-ring orbits we expect to see the rings, along with the small moons and other structures embedded in them, as never before," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "The last time we got this close to the rings was during arrival at Saturn in 2004, and we saw only their backlit side. Now we have dozens of opportunities to examine their structure at extremely high resolution on both sides."
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But it's in April 2017 that the fun really begins. That's when Cassini enters its final phase of observation, or the Grand Finale, in which it will do another close flyby of Titan, changing its orbit so it will pass through the gap between Saturn and its rings, making its closest observation of Saturn of all time. It will make 22 dives through this gap starting on April 27, until it makes its final dive into Saturn's atmosphere.

Opening quote
"We may be counting down, but no one should count Cassini out yet," said Curt Niebur, Cassini program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The journey ahead is going to be a truly thrilling ride."
Closing quote

Via Astrobiology

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NASA
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Solar System