Cassini, the spacecraft developed by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency, which landed in Saturn and its moons in 2004, started on Saturday the transmission of data and images from its final close flyby of Enceladus, Saturn’s active moon.
The spacecraft had previously sent information that demonstrated a global ocean of liquid water is located beneath the icy surface of Enceladus.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) from NASA at California Institute of Technology that leads the mission said Cassini is one of the most ambitious missions ever launched into space. The spacecraft arrived in Saturn equipped with powerful instruments and cameras which are capable of taking accurate measurements and detailed images, wrote NASA.
“This final Enceladus flyby elicits feelings of both sadness and triumph. While we’re sad to have the close flybys behind us, we’ve placed the capstone on an incredible decade of investigating one of the most intriguing bodies in the solar system.” said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at JPL.
In the latest images the spacecraft shows a region of older terrain covered in craters that have been modified by geological process and a craterless province that can be seen at the sides of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, explained the NASA.
Scientists suggest that the most important discovery Cassini has unveiled, was the fact that Enceladus hosts a global ocean beneath its icy surface, the findings were confirmed after researchers analyzed the data that the spacecraft had sent in 2005 about the geological activity of Saturn, featuring a material that gushed from warm fractures near the south pole of the moon, according to NASA.
Enceladus is thought to be one the places in the solar system that has the bigger chances of hosting alien life since it was discovered it had an ocean of liquid water. Scientists seem to suggest that microbial life could be found in the little moon that is 313 mile wide (504 KM).
Linda Spilker, the mission’s project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said researchers bid a poignant goodbye to the close views of the amazing icy world that Enceladus holds. She remarked Cassini has made so many breathtaking discoveries about the mysterious moon but yet so much remains to be done to answer the controversial question: Does this tiny ocean world harbors life?
The Cassini mission will end in September 2017. Processed, unprocessed and raw images taken by the spacecraft can be seen on the Cassini mission official website, also information and multimedia creations that feature the latest flybys near Enceladus can be found in the solar system NASA’s website.