NASA Announces Cassini Spacecraft’s End-of-Mission Activities

Posted: Aug 27 2017, 9:06am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
NASA Announces Cassini Spacecraft’s End-of-Mission Activities
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Cassini will end its voyage next month by crashing into Saturn

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is going to make an epic plunge into the Saturn’s atmosphere on Sep. 15. It will also mark the end of the nearly 20-year long mission in space. But before that happens, NASA will hold a media teleconference on Tuesday, Aug. 29 to reveal the details of the final activities of the mission.

Cassini spacecraft has been orbiting Saturn since 2004, studying the planet, its rings and its moons and sending back amazing images and data about the planet. In November of the last year, Cassini completed a daring set of ring-grazing orbits as it skimmed past the outside edge of Saturn’s main rings. The phase - a total of 20 orbits - continued until April 22, when Cassini spacecraft made its final close flyby of Saturn's hazy moon Titan.

On April 26, Cassini began the final phase of its mission, called the Grand Finale – a series of 22 orbits through the unexplored region between Saturn and its rings. These orbits provided some of the closest-ever observations of Saturn and its main rings. On many of those close flybys, instrument installed on Cassini directly took samples of particles from rings and gas molecules found close to the rings.

“No spacecraft has gone through the unique region that we'll attempt to boldly cross 22 times. What we learn from Cassini’s daring final orbits will further our understanding of how giant planets, and planetary systems everywhere, form and evolve. This is truly discovery in action to the very end.” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA said in an earlier statement.

The mission is scheduled to end next month with a final dive into the Saturn atmosphere. But it will be much more than just a final dive. Cassini will continue to send data from Saturn until it burns and its signal is lost. So there could still be more suprises.

“On Sept. 15, Cassini will plunge into Saturn, sending new and unique science about the planet's upper atmosphere to the very end. After losing contact with Earth, the spacecraft will burn up like a meteor." NASA said.

“A dramatic conclusion to a mission that has revealed so much about the ringed planet.”

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