NASA's Cassini-Huygens will finish Saturn mission tomorrow with destructive dive

Sep 15, 2017, 00:35
NASA's Cassini-Huygens will finish Saturn mission tomorrow with destructive dive

Unlike other NASA missions to the outer planets, Cassini did not land on any USA postage stamps.

Now in the final hours of a collision course with the ringed planet, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will plunge into Saturn's atmosphere on Friday (Sept. 13), where it will break apart, melt and disintegrate.

Still, "this mission has been going for so long, it's a little hard to believe that it's over", he says. The probe's iridium will be the last to melt, occurring about 30 seconds after the aluminum; everything will be melted away within a minute.

SPACECRAFT: Traveling too far from the sun to reap its energy, Cassini used plutonium for electrical power to feed its science instruments.

The explosion may even create enough light for telescopes to observe Cassini's demise from Earth, according to NASA. "But Cassini will not go quietly".

The spacecraft's final transmissions will reach Earth approximately 86 minutes later with the last expected by 4:55 a.m.

With low fuel, there is no way to abort the final maneuver. Enceladus has oceans beneath its ice and the presence of some of the necessary elements for life. "And we've left the world informed, but still wondering".

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And that's not the only Cassini data that needs further analysis: Even (relatively) basic mass calculations will be textbook-changing discoveries. But also, no one wants to irradiate any potential domestic life that may exist there. It send back some gorgeous snapshots along the way and, now that its extended mission is complete, it's time for the spacecraft to perform the ultimate sacrifice. Eight of its 12 science instruments will be operating, allowing the spacecraft to directly sample the composition of the atmosphere and potentially returning insights into the giant planet's formation and evolution. "The haze has cleared remarkably as the summer solstice has approached", Cassini Project Scientist Linda Spilker said in a news conference September 13. "You can think of Cassini as becoming the first Saturn probe".

The team at the CSIRO's Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex will communicate with the spacecraft during its final few hours, trying to squeeze as much data as possible from it before its life ends.

"The world will be watching and waiting for that bittersweet moment when NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) mission control announces "loss of signal", and we'll know that Cassini's final call home has been made". Through the eyes of Huygens, an instrument built by UA scientists and engineers, people on Earth could watch as the probe hurtled through the opaque and hazy atmosphere enshrouding Titan.

"We'll be sending data in near real time as we rush headlong into the atmosphere - it's truly a first-of-its-kind event at Saturn".

"We know that there are salts". The Cassini mission could barely compete in dinner time conversation up against missions to mars, especially not when it was only in the planning stage.

"Because of planetary protection, and our desire to go back to Enceladus, and go back to Titan", said Jim Green, the leader of NASA's planetary science program, "we must protect those bodies for future exploration".

The final images will be taken on September 14 and are planned to include images of Titan, Enceladus, moonlet "Peggy", a propeller feature in the rings and a color montage of Saturn and its rings, including the aurora at the north pole.

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