And here comes the ending journey of Cassini-a mission initiated on October 15, 1997. Well, thinking ‘What’s Cassini?’ Let’s know it.
Cassini-Hugens is an unmanned spacecraft sent to the planet Saturn. It is a flagship-class NASA-ESA-ASI robotic spacecraft. It is the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter the orbit. It has studied the planet and its many natural satellites.
After almost 20 years in space, Cassini mission will end on September 15, 2017.
Well, you must be having several questions in mind like I had.
Why is the mission ending? How is the mission ending? How is the mission fruitful? And many more. Let’s figure out some of those.
The mission is ending because it is running out of fuel and power. By 2017, it will make its last observations of Saturn and its moons. It is thought that NASA will let Saturn just take Cassini into itself. They will let the planets gravitation, pull the spacecraft in, and just let the spacecraft live until its eventual destruction. NASA will allow Cassini to crash into Saturn with a hope that we learn more about the surface of Saturn on impact, if it does not get destroyed in the rings of Saturn.
On April 22, 2017, Cassini will leap over the rings to begin its final series of daring dives between the planet and the inner edge of the rings. After 22 of these orbits, each taking six days to complete, the spacecraft, will plunge into the upper atmosphere of the gas giant planet, where it will burn up like a meteor, ending the epic mission to the Saturn system.
As it plunges past Saturn during the end of the journey, Cassini will collect some incredibly rich and valuable information that the mission’s original planners might never have imagined:
- The spacecraft will make detailed maps of Saturn’s gravity and magnetic fields, revealing how the planet is arranged on the inside, and possibly helping to solve the irksome mystery of just how fast the interior is rotating.
- It will vastly improve our knowledge of how much material is in the rings, bringing us closer to understanding their origins.
- Cassini’s particle detectors will sample icy ring particles being funneled into the atmosphere by Saturn’s magnetic field.
- Its cameras will take amazing, ultra-close images of Saturn’s rings and clouds.
Following are some key dates related to the mission:
- Begin F Ring Orbits: Nov. 29, 2016
- Final 22 Orbits Begin: April 22, 2017
- First Grand Finale Dive: April 26, 2017
- Northern Summer Solstice Begins: May 24, 2017
- Entry into Saturn’s Atmosphere: Sept. 15, 2017
Here, I bring you some excellent collection of photographs taken by Cassini.
Scientists are investigating potential causes for the change in color of the region inside the north-polar hexagon on Saturn. The color change is thought to be an effect of Saturn’s seasons. In particular, the change from a bluish color to a more golden hue may be due to the increased production of photochemical hazes in the atmosphere as the north pole approaches summer solstice in May 2017.
Hopefully, the ending journey will help us add on much more knowledge and getting deeper into Saturn. So, keep your fingers crossed for the undamaged landing of Cassini through the rings till it reaches the surface of Saturn.
Educator | SPACE