Cassini’s Final Swoops

After more than a decade, the Cassini Spacecraft is nearing the end of its mission. The final phase will be a fiery plunge into the atmosphere of Jupiter, beaming back as much data as it can before burning up and.or being crushed by the gas giant. The final dive is intended to assure that no trace of Earth accidentally reaches one of the moons, which may have their own life.

This month sees the first of 22 rinplane crossing orbits, deep dives between the rings and the atmosphere. I mean, you go all the way to Jupiter, you want to get as many cool pix as possible, right?

NASA released a neat image, with sentimental tag “Cassini’s Last View of Earth”, a reminder that the spacecraft is far from home and never returning.

Cassini’s Last View of Earth Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The image is especially striking because the glimpse of Earth through the rings is so tiny. Cassini is a long, long way from home.

There will be 22 orbits, each about six days, ending in the final plunge, This week saw the “First Ringplane Crossing” and the “Grand Finale Dive #2” (which would be great names for bands!).

Cassini will perform 22 orbits of Saturn during the Grand Finale.

We wonk get data back for a while, it takes time to beam stuff home.

And think about the skill and precision required to hit that tiny little dot with the downlink!

If all goes as planned there will be 15 more Ringplane crossings, lower and lower, until the last 5 swoop through the atmosphere. This will take all summer, with last call will be September 15.

NASA is a neverending cornucopea of nerdy names for bands.

In addition to “First Ringplane Crossing” and  “Grand Finale Dive #2”, this project also brings:

  • “The Grand Finale Toolkit”
  • “Last View of Earth”
  • “Final – and Fateful – Titan Flyby”


Space Saturday

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