US spacecraft to take slingshot dive inside Saturn's rings

28 April, 2017, 02:03 | Author: Delbert Rhodes
  • Saturn's moon Enceladus may hold life- just not very interesting life

It's treacherous territory. Even a speck from the rings could cripple Cassini, given its velocity.

The first orbit of the inner rings will begin on April 23 and will have its first pass through the gap between Saturn and its rings by April 26.

Cassini completed its initial four-year mission in June 2008, and the first extension - called the Cassini Equinox Mission - in September 2010.

Cassini launched in 1997, flying by Venus and Jupiter on its way to Saturn, where its captured close-up images of the planet and its rings.

NASA is definitely focusing on the "Grand" aspect of Cassini's finale. She told us what Cassini will be doing, and why. And the spacecraft will keep beaming data back to Earth until its final moments on September 15. During the encounter, Cassini will pass as close as 608 miles (979 kilometers) above Titan's surface at a speed of about 13,000 mph (21,000 kph). Since Cassini-Huygens was launched many of those in the original teams that designed it in the USA and Europe would have died or retired. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Between Saturn's upper atmosphere and its rings.

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Here we are if you zoom in just a little more. A particle, as small as a dust particle, could pierce the spacecraft and render it useless before its end mission.

During the dives, Cassini will measure how much ice and other materials are in the rings and determine their chemical composition. Once the last measurement is taken, scientists will shift Cassini's trajectory one final time. Space compels us because it forces us to think outside this myopic view of ourselves - not in a "Dust in the Wind" way, but in the sense that we're tiny flecks of star stuff lucky to be members of something so vast and incredible.

"This is the closest we've come, so far, to identifying a place with some of the ingredients needed for a habitable environment". Near mission's end, Spilker said, "we're actually going to dip our toe" into Saturn's atmosphere, sending back measurements until the last possible moment.

"We still have a long way to go in our understanding", said Seewald, who was not involved in the study.

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