NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, responsible for giving scientists a detailed insight on the giant ringed planet Saturn, will stop its live data transmission after its final mission after 19 years. According to NASA, the spacecraft will finish its live data transfer after its final mission set to explore Saturn’s moon Enceladus, programmed for October 28 is finished.
The Cassini spacecraft was launched on 1997, yet it reached Saturn 7 years later, and since then, it has given scientists plenty of useful information about Saturn and its moons. It’s remarkable for a spacecraft built almost two decades ago to still be able to provide unprecedented data for scientists to know more about Saturn.
The Cassini spacecraft is known for having close contact with one of Saturn’s most intriguing moons called Titan, as well as flybys over Venus, Jupiter and Earth. Fortunately for NASA, the Cassini space mission will not be over once the spacecraft can’t transmit scientific data anymore, as the information Cassini gathers after that will be stored.
Given that a future mission is set to retrieve the spacecraft from Saturn’s orbit, scientists will count on plenty of data collected, but never transmitted. It’s worth remembering that NASA’s Cassini mission was also set to bring it’s spacecraft partner Huygens into orbit, and later went over to Titan, or better known as Saturn’s moon T-118.
The Huygens spacecraft marked a breakthrough for scientists over at NASA when it successfully landed on Titan’s surface. The achievement also marked the first successful landing in the outer Solar System for NASA, and any other space program.
Cassini’s contributions to NASA
Thanks to Cassini, scientists at NASA have been provided with several discoveries along with never-before-seen images of the Saturnian system, including its moons Enceladus and Titan. In Saturn’s moon Enceladus, Cassini was able to discover the moon’s geologic activity as well as the moon’s hydrothermal activity. The findings suggested Enceladus could have the necessary ingredients to support water-based life forms.
Also, considering the mission has spent almost two decades exploring space, and 15 years of which were dedicated solely to studying Saturn, scientists now can see the planet’s seasonal changes.
According to images released by NASA a few months ago, Saturn appears to be entering its summer solstice, as the planet’s north pole is getting brighter by the day. Previous images of Saturn showed how the planet’s north pole pointing up, with its rings on an horizontal plane, but now the planet seems to be tilted to the right.
Now, for Cassini to finish the mission with elegance and dignity, the spacecraft is set to maneuver across Saturn’s ring plane. And will end its so-called ‘Grand Finale’ in September 2017 when the spacecraft ventures to the planet’s upper atmosphere.
Source: Discovery News