Monday, 15 October, 2018

Cassini is destroyed, but its successful mission to Saturn will be remembered

Farewell Cassini Saturn spacecraft makes fiery final dive Mad Minute stories from Thursday, September 14th
Frank Williams | 16 September, 2017, 15:40

It's investigations of Titan and Enceladus, Saturn's moons', were no less stunning.

Earl Maize, program manager for NASA's Cassini spacecraft at the agency's Jet Propulsion Lab, and Julie Webster, spacecraft operations team manager for the Cassini mission at Saturn, embrace in an emotional moment for the entire Cassini team after the spacecraft plunged into Saturn, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017.

"When I look back at the Cassini mission, I see a mission that was running a 13-year marathon of scientific discovery, and this last orbit was just the last lap", Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker said.

After a long 20 years in space including courageous dives between Saturn and its rings in the past five months, finally, on Friday, Cassini went through a controlled plunge into Saturn.

Taken from a distance of 1.1 million kilometres from Saturn, this the final view of Saturn's famous rings captured by Cassini on September 13.

Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, clapped and hugged one another when the loss of signal was confirmed.

Cassini, an global project that cost $3.9 billion and included scientists from 27 nations, disintegrated as it dove into Saturn's atmosphere at a speed of 75,000 miles per hour (120,700 kilometers per hour). JPL also designed, developed and assembled the spacecraft. "This has been an incredible mission, an incredible spacecraft, and you've all been an incredible team". What a way to go.

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As planned, data from eight of Cassini's science instruments was beamed back to Earth.

"No doubt scientists will be analyzing the information from its final, one-way trip into Saturn's atmosphere for years to come", Owens said. One infrared image displayed an area just north of Saturn's equator where NASA believes the spacecraft crashed into.

Launched in 1997, Cassini has been exploring Saturn and its moons for 13 years.

The safe disposal of Cassini was viewed as the best way of avoiding the remote possibility of contaminating the pristine moons with Earth bugs. "To the very end, the spacecraft did everything we asked", he said.

Many scientists considered Cassini mission as an awesome one and were sad that the Cassini finally got destroyed, but they were confident that the valuable information, as well as the images that Cassini sent, would help them in future explorations and considered it as the beginning of a new chapter. The image, which was taken using Cassini's wide-angle camera at a distance of 634,000 kilometres from Saturn, shows the planet's night side - lit by reflected light from the rings - and the location at which the spacecraft later entered Saturn's atmosphere. It talks back to us and gives us data.

NASA is now considering proposals for the next mission to Saturn and expects to make an announcement about the finalists later this year, said NASA's planetary science division director Jim Green.


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