NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft Makes History As It Prepares For The End.
On April 26th, 2017, over 700 million miles away, a small spacecraft made history by plunging between Saturn and its rings. After 2 decades in space and 13 years in orbit around Saturn, this craft has been able to take the most detailed pictures of Saturn in the history of mankind. The craft’s name is Cassini and its time is almost up.
Cassini was launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004. There it began its mission by photographing Titan. It launched the Huygens Probe down to the surface of Titan and continued to photograph the moon till late 2016 when it began some more extreme orbits around Saturn. Since that time it has sent back amazingly detailed pictures of Saturn’s rings. After 20 years in space, its mission is close to its end.
In the coming months, Cassini will perform its final maneuvers that will lead it to dive between the rings 21 more times and then crash into Saturn’s atmosphere. During that time it will be taking the most detailed pictures of Saturn and performing maneuvers that have never been attempted before. For the next few months, it will be diving between the rings once every week.
Credit: Kevin Anderton for Forbes, 30 April 2017.