Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The End of Cassini

You may not have heard, but one of the most well known NASA missions, Cassini, is coming to an end.  The Cassini spacecraft mission to Saturn first started in development in the 1980s and launch from Earth to Saturn in 1997, entering Saturn's orbit in 2004.  For the last 12 years Cassini has provided astronomers on Earth a treasure trove of data to answer questions on Saturn, Saturn's moons, and Saturn's rings.  Much of what we know on Saturn today is a direct result of this mission.  In addition, a probe, Huygens, was dropped onto the surface of one of Saturn's moons, Titan, in 2005.  This probe was a success, landing on the surface and taking several surface images, including the one below.

Over the last 12 years Cassini has taken many amazing images of Saturn's rings and atmosphere.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and Cassini is nearing that end.  Starting in late 2016 Cassini began its last mission, a multiple path trek (22 times) through Saturn's rings, hopefully giving us our best look ever at Saturn's outer rings.  Following this (September 2017) Cassini will plummet into the atmosphere of Saturn until the craft is destroyed, collecting and sending back atmospheric data as long as it can.  

It's sad to see the mission end, but the data Cassini has provided over the years is simply amazing!  Even in its final hours Cassini will continue to transmit back data until the very last second.  

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