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Cassini probe prepares for its 'grand finale'


Posted on Wednesday, 5 April, 2017 | Comment icon 9 comments

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)

Tags: Cassini, Saturn

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Merc14 on 5 April, 2017, 18:46
Incredibly successful mission that with the last of its fuel will provide some very exciting science and then go out with a bang.
Comment icon #2 Posted by qxcontinuum on 6 April, 2017, 3:52
cant wait to see pictures.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Merc14 on 6 April, 2017, 3:55
They should be as amazing as all the rest of the amazing, groundbreaking images this craft has provided over the last decade.  I can't wait either! 
Comment icon #4 Posted by wadoor on 6 April, 2017, 10:33
Wow, this is so exciting. Some close pics of saturns ring will be amazing. I think I'm going to have another geek freak out.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 6 April, 2017, 12:37
Cassini is already taking close pictures of the rings, see here: Close Views of Saturn's Rings During the closest point in its dives between Saturn and the rings Cassini will probably not get its best images of the rings as it will be viewing them edge on. Join the club.  
Comment icon #6 Posted by Derek Willis on 6 April, 2017, 12:48
James Clerk Maxwell, who died in 1879, worked out that Saturn's rings could only be stable if they were made up of fragments. Less than a century after his death, in 1972 NASA launched Pioneer 11, which took the first close up look at the rings. Now with Cassini we are going to have a really close up look. Amazing!
Comment icon #7 Posted by wadoor on 11 April, 2017, 5:00
Thanks waspie_dwarf I thought I'd seen all of the ring images, but clearly I had not. Well side on images won't be as impressive I guess, but I'm sure it'll still be exciteding, and yeah can I join the club?
Comment icon #8 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 11 April, 2017, 10:29
I don't think that there is any doubt that you are already a member. ?
Comment icon #9 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 19 April, 2017, 20:16
Cassini Heads Toward Final Close Encounter with Titan  


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