Cassini Flies Toward a Fiery Death on Saturn

Cassini Flies Toward a Fiery Death on Saturn

Cassini Flies Toward a Fiery Death on Saturn

NASA is ending the mission becaise the spacecraft will become hard to control once the fuel gets too low, and scientists want to avoid the possibility of Cassini one day crashing into one of Saturn's moons so as not to disrupt future studies of those moons and their ability to sustain life. This time, Cassini will dive into the planet's atmosphere, sending science data for as long as its small thrusters can keep the spacecraft's antenna pointed at Earth. Cornell's Spacecraft Planetary Imaging Facility (SPIF) will display images of Saturn and its moons on its "magic planet" globe, and SPIF manager Zoe Ponterio will answer Cassini questions. Cassini's disposal in the atmosphere of Saturn is meant to safeguard the environment on those moons, preventing any contamination by an encounter with Cassini and its Earth bacteria. During the last five orbits, Cassini shall be the closest to Saturn's atmosphere and that's when it will take the final leap leaving behind huge chunks of data to be studied for a better understanding of the planet.

"After spending more than a decade following the fantastic Cassini spacecraft, it's a great opportunity to celebrate the mission and team behind one of humanity's most profound journeys of exploration", said Wyatt Channell, executive producer at Science Channel.

As NASA noted on its website, "When Cassini ends, it will leave a rich scientific and engineering legacy". Launched on October 15, 1997, the mission entered orbit around Saturn on June 30, 2004 (PDT), carrying the European Huygens probe.

Cassini was sent to orbit Saturn with a mission to spend all its fuel on researching about Saturn and instead of coming back to Earth, its mission was to dive into Saturn's atmosphere once the fuel reaches its end. After its four-year prime mission, Cassini's tour was extended twice. Having expended nearly every bit of the rocket propellant it carried to Saturn, operators are deliberately plunging Cassini into the planet to ensure Saturn's moons will remain pristine for future exploration-in particular, the ice-covered, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus, but also Titan, with its intriguing pre-biotic chemistry. Its key discoveries were the ocean-bearing moon on Enceladus and the liquid methane seas on Titan.

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