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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Cassini - Mission to End

     NASA's Cassini spacecraft is headed toward its 15 September 2017 plunge into Saturn, following a final distant flyby of the planet's giant Titan.

The spacecraft made its closest approach to Titan today at 12:04 p.m. at an altitude of 119,049 kilometers above the moon's surface. The spacecraft is scheduled to make contact with Earth on 12 September at about 6:19 p.m. Images and other science data taken during the encounter are expected to begin  streaming to Earth soon after. Navigators will analyse the spacecraft trajectory following this downlink to confirm that Cassini is precisely on course to dive into Saturn at the planned time, location and altitude.

The distant encounter is referred to informally as "the goodbye kiss" by mission engineers, because it provides a gravitational nudge that sends the spacecraft toward its dramatic ending in Saturn's upper atmosphere. The geometry of the flyby causes Cassini to slow down slightly in its orbit around Saturn. This lowers the altitude of its flight over the planet so that the spacecraft goes too deep into Saturn's atmosphere to survive, because friction with the atmosphere will cause Cassini to burn up.

Cassini has made hundreds of passes over Titan during its 13-year tour of the Saturn system - including 127 precisely targeted encounters - some at close range and some like more distant.

Cassini has been in a long term relationship with Saturn's moon Titan, with a new rendezvous nearly every month for more than a decade, said Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "This  final encounter is something of a bittersweet goodbye, but as ut has done throughout the mission, Titan's gravity is once again sending Cassini where they needed to go.

Cassini is ending its 13-year tour of Saturn system with an intentional plunge into the planet to ensure Saturn's moons - in particular Enceladus, with its Subsurface ocean and signs of hydrothermal activity - remain pristine for future exploration. The spacecraft's fateful dive is the final beat in the mission's Grand Finale, 22 weekly dives through the gap between Saturn and its rings. No spacecrafts has ever ventured so close to the planet before.


     The Cassini spacecraft was launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004. During its time there, Cassini has made numerous dramatic discoveries, including a global ocean with indicators of hydrothermal activity within the icy moon Enceladus, and liquid methane seas on another moon Titan.

     The Cassini - Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA (National Aeronautics Space Administration), ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

Saturn Grand Finale Plunge available at

More Information about Cassini at 



Text and Image Credit : National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA)

Tags: Cassini | NASA Saturn Mission | Cassini - Huygens


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