The Cassini mission is nearing its conclusion. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA's long-lived Cassini spacecraft will soon begin its first in a series of final orbits around Saturn.
Originally launched all the way back in 1997 and arriving in orbit around Saturn in 2004, Cassini, which initially came paired with ESA's Titan-bound Huygens lander, has been one of the biggest success stories in space exploration over the last two decades.
Brimming with an array of sophisticated instrumentation, Cassini has sent back huge amounts of information about Saturn and its moons as well as about its fascinating and enigmatic ring system.
Now though, as the probe nears the end of its operational life, NASA is preparing to send it on one final journey that will take it closer and closer to the gas giant's surface.
On April 22nd Cassini will perform a final flyby of Titan that will set it up for its final 22 orbits around Saturn itself. On April 26th, it will dive headlong through the 1,500-mile-wide gap between Saturn's rings and the top of Saturn's clouds, capturing incredible photographs as it goes.
It will continue to make these passes once a week until the mission reaches its inevitable end.
"The planned conclusion for Cassini's journey was far and away the preferred choice for the mission's scientists," said NASA's Linda Spilker in a press release.
"Cassini will make some of its most extraordinary observations at the end of its long life."
Source: Sky and Telescope | Comments (9)