Cassini Took Its Last Flyby Before Its Death Plunge On Friday

Cassini Took Its Last Flyby Before Its Death Plunge On Friday

Combined, the Cassini-Huygens mission cost about $3.26 billion, according to NASA. Among Cassini's objectives is the study of Saturn's rings, Titan's atmosphere, and the behavior of Saturn's magnetosphere.

The reason NASA is destroying Cassini is because of the spacecraft's most astonishing discovery.

"Because of the importance of Enceladus that Cassini has shown us, and of Titan, we had to make decisions on how to dispose of the spacecraft", said Jim Green, NASA's director of planetary science.

In addition it has identified natural radio waves from inside the planet whose origin remains a mystery, and by studying the famous rings - made from dust, rock and ice - shed new light on how planets and moons form. There are some huge gaps in the rings where the atmosphere is silent and less dusty.

If you want a visual update that includes experts from JPL, PBS NOVA featured a one-hour episode on Cassini, "Death Dive to Saturn" on Wednesday, Sept, 13, which is now available to stream. Eastern Time for the spacecraft, but given the time it takes for the signal to reach Earth, we will receive those last bits of data just before 8 a.m. - long after Cassini is "gone".

- The Jet Propulsion Laboratory-managed Cassini spacecraft was on its final approach Wednesday toward Saturn - and its ultimate doom.

Mission scientists and operators are giving Cassini this fiery send-off on goal. "This storm is the largest, most intense storm observed on Saturn by NASA's Voyager or Cassini spacecraft", NASA said.

On Thursday, Cassini's cameras will transmit the last images of the moons Titan and Enceladus, as well as Saturn's rings. Cassini also discovered the presence of organics on Saturn's icy moon Enceladus, leading to speculation that microbes or some other simple life could potentially be living there.

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Mission planners decided that vaporising the spacecraft in Saturn's atmosphere was the best way to keep it from accidentally contaminating Enceladus and Titan - two of the solar system's most promising candidates for hosting extraterrestrial life. Scientists have never been able to distinguish Saturn's mass from its rings', but because Cassini's suicide mission has taken it between the planet and the rings, its instruments should provide the numbers scientists have been itching to calculate for decades.

Once Cassini came back online, Staab said, the data could stream alongside the real-time observations, though the process would consume more bandwidth.

No images will be taken during the final plunge into Saturn, as the data transmission rate required to send images is too high and would prevent other high-value science data from being returned. Scientists are instead more concerned about the final data Cassini can gather in its final moments of actual scientific value.

After all of its contributions to our understanding of Saturn and the outer solar system, Cassini has been on a doomed trajectory since April.

Its demise will be the end of a space mission that has yielded an unprecedented amount of knowledge about a mysterious planet. It slung around Venus, Earth, and Jupiter, using the gravitational potential of each planet to redirect its path during its seven-year journey to Saturn. Of Cassini's 162 targeted flybys of Saturn's 53 named and nine unnamed moons, 127 were of Titan.

The probe's final dip will end Cassini's 13-year mission exploring Saturn and its moons.

Cassini arrived at the ringed planet in July 2004.

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