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Waspie_Dwarf

Cassini Begins Epic Final Year at Saturn

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Waspie_Dwarf

Cassini Begins Epic Final Year at Saturn

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After more than 12 years studying Saturn, its rings and moons, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has entered the final year of its epic voyage. The conclusion of the historic scientific odyssey is planned for September 2017, but not before the spacecraft completes a daring two-part endgame.

Beginning on November 30, Cassini's orbit will send the spacecraft just past the outer edge of the main rings. These orbits, a series of 20, are called the F-ring orbits. During these weekly orbits, Cassini will approach to within 4,850 miles (7,800 kilometers) of the center of the narrow F ring, with its peculiar kinked and braided structure.

arrow3.gif  Read More: NASA

 

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf
corrected source link.
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Sundew

Surely one of our most interesting outer planetary missions! The photos were stunning and I'm sure as a layman I can't begin to appreciate all the data collected. I remember the launch of the Cassini and all the angst and protest amongst the college students at Rollins College near Orlando, Florida. They were all wailing and crying because the craft was powered by Plutonium and acting like we were all going to die. Instead we were treated to a vision of the cosmos that continues to fascinate to this day. Hopefully we will get photos along with the data as it makes its final approach!

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Derek Willis

Whenever anyone feels the need to criticize NASA - and no organization can be perfect - try to remember some of the amazing missions the agency has mounted. Cassini/Huygens has been a huge success.  

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paperdyer

Is the probe just wearing out or is the mission out of money?  It seems like the probe could gather even more info if given a chance.

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Sundew
Just now, paperdyer said:

Is the probe just wearing out or is the mission out of money?  It seems like the probe could gather even more info if given a chance.

It's only a guess, but likely radiation and possible impacts with debris (dust) around Saturn take its toll over time. I assume, perhaps wrongly, that the mission had a timeline they set for each part of the exploration, although in some missions they let the vehicles run until they can go no further. Perhaps they feel the data on the moons and rings is now being largely duplicated also and it's time for data on the planet's atmosphere before the craft becomes unresponsive. Waspie probably can give you a more definitive answer. 

Saturn and Jupiter certainly are the more interesting planetary systems in our solar system. Aside from landing on their moons and/or searching for life in the sub-surface oceans, you may not see anything as exciting for a long time. I don't know if anything has been planned for Uranus and Neptune, but if so it's a long way out to them so don't look for anything in the near future. 

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Merc14
13 minutes ago, paperdyer said:

Is the probe just wearing out or is the mission out of money?  It seems like the probe could gather even more info if given a chance.

It has taken some wear and tear but the big thing is they are running out of rocket fuel and they don't want to dial it up one day and find they have lost control of the craft.  The main fear, however unlikely, is it could crash into one of the two moons that may contain some form of life and so rather than take a chance they'll end the mission on their terms and destroy the craft in a controlled way.

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