Less than 24 hours until Cassini probe crashes into Saturn

Less than 24 hours until Cassini probe crashes into Saturn

Less than 24 hours until Cassini probe crashes into Saturn

Instead of allowing Cassini to crash where it may, scientists have programmed the spacecraft to plunge into Saturn's atmosphere all in the name of protecting the planet's natural satellites.

The Cassini spacecraft, in orbit around Saturn since mid-2004, will plunge into Saturn's atmosphere in the early morning hours of September 15.

University of Virginia planetary astronomer Anne Verbiscer, a participating scientist with the mission, is attending this week's end-of-mission celebration at the California Institute of Technology, near mission central - NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory - and is enjoying the final ride with hundreds of fellow Cassini scientists.

The team hopes to receive a signal for as long as possible while the satellite plummets into the giant world. The probe's iridium will be the last to melt, occurring about 30 seconds after the aluminum; everything will be melted away within a minute.

From orbit, Cassini has provided researchers with such a wealth of data that its mission was extended twice, first for the northern hemisphere's spring equinox in 2010 and then for the summer solstice in 2017.

"It's essentially now a real-time instrument", Maize said.

NASA's Cassini has been honoured with a opera song. "But Cassini will not go quietly". The probe will have execute its death dive at 6:31 a.m. EDT, but the delay and distance between Saturn and Earth won't see the probe's final radio signal arrive for another 83 minutes.

Less than a day to mark the end of Cassini's journey revealing the secrets of this ringed planet.

With low fuel, there is no way to abort the final maneuver.

Mission controllers wouldn't be able to respond to that putative signal in any meaningful way even if they wanted to; Cassini will die almost an hour and a half before such a signal reaches our planet. Enceladus has oceans beneath its ice and the presence of some of the necessary elements for life. Scientists now know Titan has rivers, lakes and seas filled with liquid methane and ethane.

MOONS: Saturn has 62 known moons, including six discovered by Cassini. So, rather than risk contaminating those moons with life from Earth, Cassini and any microbes it harbors will burn up on entry into Saturn's atmosphere. But also, no one wants to irradiate any potential domestic life that may exist there. Gas analyzed by the Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer, one of eight instruments running until the bitter end, is expected to collect new information about the atmosphere's chemical and elemental composition. "That led us, inevitably, to the plan of taking Cassini and plunging it into Saturn". The space agency says that Cassini's final transmissions will be picked up NASA's Deep Space Network complex in Canberra, Australia. The team is sad, but proud of accomplishing their goals, he said. "And we've left the world informed, but still wondering". "I couldn't ask for more".

"We know that there are salts".

The bus-sized, plutonium-powered spacecraft was launched in 1997 and reached Saturn seven years later. Some offices have already emptied as staff found posts on NASA's Juno mission around Jupiter, the agency's Mars 2020 rover or the Europa clipper, which aims to find out whether the Jovian moon is habitable. The probe has dazzled all those who have followed its progress, including Jim Green, the head of planetary science at Nasa.

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