NASA is set to destroy the $3.26 Billion spacecraft Cassini on 15 September by plunging in to the Saturn’s surface. After 13 years of continuous explore about the Saturn and it’s moons. Now Cassini is running out of it’s fuel. NASA is using the remaining dregs to pull down the Cassini into Saturn’s surface.
September 9 – Cassini will pass through the gap between Saturn and it’s rings for the last time. This is 22th passes between Saturn and it’s rings. It will be just 1044 miles(1680km) above the planet’s clouds tops.Since April, Cassini has been diving dangerously close to Saturn’s cloud tops collecting new detailed data on Saturn’s turbulent upper atmosphere.
September 11 – Cassini will make it’s final pass by Saturn’s largest moon Titan.Because of the strong gravitational influence of the Titan,the speed of the Cassini which is flying 73974 miles(1,19,049km)away will be reduced. Titan is exotic world with lakes of liquid methane and ethane.This lakes make Titan a potential candidate for alien life.
September 14- Cassini is runaway dive to the Saturn. Cassini’s imaging cameras take their last look around the Saturn system, sending back pictures of moons Titan and Enceladus, the hexagon-shaped jet stream around the planet’s north pole, and features in the rings.Also one it’s action is to point it’s antenna towards the earth so that is can transmit some data before it dies. Cassini will send some important images and data that has been collected along the way.
September 15 (4:37 a.m. EDT / 1:37 a.m. PDT) – The “final plunge” begins. The spacecraft starts a 5-minute roll to position INMS for optimal sampling of the atmosphere, transmitting data in near real time from now to end of mission.
September 15 (7:53 a.m. EDT / 4:53 a.m. PDT)- Cassini enters Saturn’s atmosphere. It fires its thrusts to keep the antenna pointed at Earth to maintain directional stability, enabling the spacecraft’s high-gain antenna allowing continued transmission of data.
September 15 (7:54 a.m. EDT / 4:54 a.m. PDT)- It only takes a minute for the atmospheric forces to overwhelm Cassini.The antenna loses it’s connection with Earth.After a while Cassini spacecraft will break apart and burn up.
NASA’s this destruction of Cassini into Saturn will prevent it from crash landing in somewhere else. Like Titan or Enceladus where it could harm any alien life that may live there. While the spacecraft may be no more but it’s discoveries will live on and pave the way for future mission to come. The findings of the Cassini mission have revolutionized our understanding of Saturn, its complex rings, the amazing assortment of moons and the planet’s dynamic magnetic environment.
Image source : NASA