NASA’s space probe has traveled around Saturn for nearly two decades, sending thousands of fascinating photos to Earth. Now is the time for this last maneuver on Planet of the Rings.
This latest flight from Cassini can be watched live through NASA’s online services, since the entire mission is part of the Eyes Visualization application.
Thus, the last dive of Cassini will cause the probe to ignite in the skies of Saturn. In these last flights, after five successful dives with the same objective, this space equipment will be able to collect unpublished data regarding temperature, boreal auroras, polar vortices and other characteristics of the planet.
In addition to all the information and photos that Cassini has already sent to NASA over this time. The probe will perform this last approach between 1,710 and 1,630 kilometers above the clouds that make up the planet’s sky, at a time NASA names it “grand finale”. The final “sigh” of Cassini will be disintegration, as if it were a meteor.
Having spent almost every available fuel for exploration of the ring planet, Cassini is expected to be purposely directed toward “death” in Saturn’s atmosphere in an attempt to keep the star’s moons “virgins” for new and future missions. And this last flight is expected to present data never before analyzed on what is happening in the 22 orbits between the planet and its rings.
Once Cassini reaches an altitude where the atmospheric density is about twice that found so far, which causes the propellers to no longer be able to keep the antennas pointed at Earth, the probe loses contact with Earth. Everything will be observed by NASA experts from two important observatories located in North American territory.
They are the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the IRTF (Infrared Telescope Facility), located in Hawaii and supported by the W. M. Keck Observatory, also in that country.
“We will be on the ground and careful, recording all the data that Cassini will send us during this last flight, learning even more about the conditions that are happening on Saturn”, confirmed Don Jennings, a NASA scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center, responsible for the Composite Infrared Spectrometer.
Last Monday, September 11, the spacecraft made a low-flying flight to Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, in a maneuver about 119,000 km above the star’s surface.
This displacement served above all to reduce the speed of the space device, an essential condition for collecting information effectively, and until the last moment of connection between the spacecraft and NASA’s space antennas.