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Cassini Spacecraft Makes Its Final Approach to Saturn

We’ll stay breathless, because Cassini’s antenna will keep sending informations to Earth until its last moment.

Between 26 April and September 15, Cassini ‘jumped’ between Saturn and its rings, on a region that no other mission in humankind history ever explored before.

A 13-year tour of the Saturn system is ending with an intentional plunge into Saturn to ensure its moons(in particular Enceladus, with its subsurface ocean and signs of hydrothermal activity – remain pristine for future exploration).

NASA announces: the mission’s final calculations predict loss of contact with the Cassini spacecraft will take place on Sept. 15 at 7:55 a.m. EDT (4:55 a.m. PDT).

Cassini will enter Saturn’s atmosphere approximately one minute earlier, at an altitude of about 1,190 miles (1,915 kilometers) above the planet’s estimated cloud tops (the altitude where the air pressure is 1-bar, equivalent to sea level on Earth). During its dive into the atmosphere, the spacecraft’s speed will be approximately 70,000 miles (113,000 kilometers) per hour. The final plunge will take place on the day side of Saturn, near local noon, with the spacecraft entering the atmosphere around 10 degrees north latitude.

 

Cassini’s last transmissions will be received by antennas at NASA’s Deep Space Network complex in Canberra, Australia and if all goes as planned, images will be posted to the Cassini mission website beginning around 11 p.m. EDT (8 p.m. PDT). The unprocessed images will be available HERE.

Due to the travel time for radio signals from Saturn to Earth, events currently take place there 83 minutes before they are observed on Earth.

“The spacecraft’s final signal will be like an echo. It will radiate across the solar system for nearly an hour and a half after Cassini itself has gone,” said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California

Milestones in Cassini's final dive toward Saturn. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Milestones in Cassini’s final dive toward Saturn. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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