Dr Ian Griffin: Final hours for Saturn's space probe

Geysers of warm water from the sub-surface oceans of Enceladus

The 22ft robot craft will break into fragments and burn up as it ploughs into the ringed planet's cloud tops, ending a 20-year mission that cost £2.9 billion.

The same might be true for Cassini's place in pop culture.

After four decades of planning and execution, NASA's awe-inspiring Cassini spacecraft will plunge to its death in the next 24 hours.

Its demise will be the end of a space mission that has yielded an unprecedented amount of knowledge about a mysterious planet.

The spacecraft's Grand Finale orbits have brought it closer to the gas giant than any spacecraft has traveled, traversing the gap between the planet and its rings and diving into the unknown to learn as much as possible about the planet.

Its final mission was a gravity assist around Saturn's largest moon, Titan, to set it on a collision course with Saturn's main body. This probe explored Saturn's moon Titan, which is larger than Mercury and is the only moon in the solar system with a dense atmosphere.

Cassini's last five orbits will take it through Saturn's uppermost atmosphere, before a final plunge directly into the planet on September 15. Not knowing that its death has been carefully scripted, Cassini may try to alert mission control that something has gone horribly wrong. "Cassini will be followed up by future missions, I am nearly sure". Hence, on 1997 NASA launched its robotic spacecraft, Cassini for an ambitious mission to Saturn. "Cassini's final weak radio signals will have travelled 1.5 billion km at the speed of light to reach Canberra". "The haze has cleared remarkably as the summer solstice has approached", Cassini Project Scientist Linda Spilker said in a news conference September 13.

In 2004, Cassini became a "Cool Kids Combo" meal toy offered by Hardee's and Carl's Jr. fast food restaurants.

"Goodbye, Cassini! Your mission's fini". "You're racing against the clock at that point", he said. Cassini's sacrifice will be remembered for ever. The live telecast shall be followed by a post-mission briefing from JPL at 9:30 a.m. EDT (13:30 UTC) which shall also air on NASA TV.

Why crash Cassini into Saturn?

This is another reason the mission scientists decided on Cassini's particular end-game. But after Cassini revealed so many ocean worlds close at hand, that assumption has to be revised. "I find great comfort in the fact that Cassini will continue teaching us up to the very last second". "I have seen a lot of visual artists take images from Saturn, primarily the rings, and use those as motifs, backgrounds or design elements in their art". Data from the spacecraft indicate Saturn's rings - which consist of icy bits ranging in size from dust to mountains - may be on the less massive side.

If you're a Cassini fan-and the mission has picked up quite a few, including adorable six-year-olds-that's always going to be little sad.

Why are scientists crashing the probe into Saturn?

What are scientists and space aficionados saying about this finale?

"We study the stars because they tell us where we came from, and inspire us to imagine just how far we might go. We did it.' Cassini was so profoundly, scientifically successful", said planetary scientist Carolyn Porco at the University of California, Berkeley.

First there was the sheer distance involved. "If in 1990, someone had stepped forward and said we needed an instrument specifically built to sample Enceladus' plumes, they would have been laughed out of the room as a kook", Neiber says. Over the mission, the northern hemisphere shifted from a bluish hue to the more familiar golden tones as the shadows cast by Saturn's rings moved south.

Related:

  • Trump, Melania leave for Florida to inspect effect of Hurricane Irma

    Trump, Melania leave for Florida to inspect effect of Hurricane Irma

    Trump said in brief remarks to reporters in Fort Myers, acknowledging that many had lost their homes in the destruction. President Donald Trump will travel to the Naples area as part of a visit to hurricane-damaged Florida on Thursday.
    Tropical Storm Jose expected to become hurricane

    Tropical Storm Jose expected to become hurricane

    The National Hurricane Center also said a tropical storm watch was in effect for the island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis, the British territories of Anguilla and Montserrat, and the islands of Saba and St.
    Over 6 million lose power from Irma in US Southeast - utilities

    Over 6 million lose power from Irma in US Southeast - utilities

    Since customers includes homes and businesses, these numbers do not reflect the full amount of individuals who lost electricity. The company, however, warned it would take longer to restore customers with tornado damage or severe flooding.
  • DOOM Sacrifices SnapMap and Multiplayer for a Switch Release

    DOOM Sacrifices SnapMap and Multiplayer for a Switch Release

    For more news on when Doom and Wolfenstein 2 will be coming to the Switch stay tuned. Wolfenstein II , meanwhile, will debut on those three systems on October 27.
    Terror-related arrests hit record high as threat gathers momentum

    Terror-related arrests hit record high as threat gathers momentum

    By the end of June this year, 204 people in the United Kingdom were in custody for terrorism-related offences in the country. Of this number, 185 people - 91% - of them held Islamist extremist views, and ten others (5%) held far-right views.
    High Court Sides With Trump on Refugee Entries

    High Court Sides With Trump on Refugee Entries

    The administration objected, saying the relationship between refugees and resettlement agencies shouldn't count. District Court in Honolulu disagreed with the administration's interpretation on both points.
  • New Zealand MP admits teaching Chinese spies

    New Zealand MP admits teaching Chinese spies

    This is not a spy thriller from the airport bookshelves, " said Mr Peters, campaigning in the southern city of Dunedin today. DR YANG JIAN , acknowledging that he had taught people who had gone on to become Chinese intelligence officers.
    Crazy Ben Roethlisberger stat against Browns highlights Cleveland's QB mistakes

    Crazy Ben Roethlisberger stat against Browns highlights Cleveland's QB mistakes

    Garrett sustained a lateral sprain to his left foot during minicamp while pressuring former Browns quarterback Brock Osweiler. Joe Haden-The ex-Brown and new Steeler starting CB will be on a mission in his first game against his former team.
    Qatar, Boycotting Arab States in Heated Arab League Clash

    Qatar, Boycotting Arab States in Heated Arab League Clash

    Muraikhi also hailed Iran as an "honorable country", adding that the Tehran-Doha relations had warmed since the blockade. However, Saudi Arabia subsequently accused Qatar of distorting facts about the call, and said it was ending talks.
  • Crude Oil Prices Hit 1-Month Highs, Demand Hopes Supportive

    Crude Oil Prices Hit 1-Month Highs, Demand Hopes Supportive

    In the areas affected by the hurricane, gasoline prices rose even more, but they still remained below the national average. Oil prices rose after the report was published, with Brent crude adding 10 cents to $54.37 per barrel around 0820 GMT.
    Target hiring 100000 holiday workers

    Target hiring 100000 holiday workers

    The hiring boom is a sign of retail rebound for Target, which recently announced it was lowering prices on thousands of items . Opportunities are posted now on Target's seasonal hiring page .
    Paulo Dybala will leave Juventus - Agent Mino Raiola

    Paulo Dybala will leave Juventus - Agent Mino Raiola

    He doesn't believe he will be Barca bound, instead suggesting Real Madrid or the Premier League will be his most likely destination.

Comments

Other news