“Journey’s End” –NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft Heading Towards Its “End-of-Mission” Death Plunge Through Saturn’s Rings (WATCH Today’s ‘Galaxy’ Stream)




On April 21, the spacecraft made its final close approach to Saturn’s moon Titan and will now begin its last set of 22 orbits around Saturn until it takes its death plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere right on September 15. After the close approach that gave us Cassini’s last image of Earth, the craft sent images and data back to earth for scientists to study the hydrocarbon seas and lakes on Titan’s north polar region.

The gravity from Titan set Cassini up for its Grand Finale: on April 26 the spacecraft will start a series of dives between the rings before its final death plunge.




The final chapter in a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery, Cassini's Grand Finale is in many ways like a brand new mission. Twenty-two times, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will dive through the unexplored space between Saturn and its rings. What we learn from these ultra-close passes over the planet could be some of the most exciting revelations ever returned by the long-lived spacecraft. The video abovetells the story of Cassini's final, daring assignment and looks back at what the mission has accomplished.

“With this flyby we’re committed to the Grand Finale,” Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at JPL, said in a press release. “The spacecraft is now on a ballistic path, so that even if we were to forgo future small course adjustments using thrusters, we would still enter Saturn’s atmosphere on Sept. 15 no matter what.”

Cassini will be out of contact during the dive, but will make radio contact with Earth the next day, when scientists expect the images and data to start coming in.

The Daily Galaxy via NASA/JPL


"The Galaxy" in Your Inbox, Free, Daily