Last adventure ahead for NASA's Cassini spacecraft at Saturn

Saturn's moon Enceladus may hold life- just not very interesting life

Saturn's moon Enceladus may hold life- just not very interesting life

At first glance, it looks like a mere white dot, but it is actually an image of the Earth in between the icy rings of Saturn. The planet is thoroughly studied by NASA's Cassini spacecraft since its arrival in 2004.

While space fans can not wait to hear about Cassini's wealth of data scientists will soon start sifting through, the space probe itself will sink into the unfamiliar space between Saturn and its rings. The photograph, captured by the Imaging Science Subsystem, doesn't clearly show which part of Earth is facing the ringed planet at the time the picture was taken, but NASA has revealed it is the southern Atlantic Ocean. Launched in 1997, C.

Perhaps most importantly, Cassini will use Titan's gravity as a "pivot point" to alter the spacecraft's orbit and aim directly through the narrow space between Saturn and its inner rights where no spacecraft has explored before. It's treacherous territory. A particle from the rings - even as small as a speck of sand - could cripple Cassini, given its velocity.

Dubbed the "grand finale" by boffins, Cassini will fly through the 1,500-mile gap between the gas giant and its rings of space dust. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter. Its Huygens probe later touched down on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, on January 14, 2005.

This flyby is also the gateway to NASA Cassini spacecraft's "Grand Finale".

"What a spectacular end to a spectacular mission", said Jim Green, NASA's planetary science division director.

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Now, the spacecraft is making new discoveries in a second extension called the Cassini Solstice Mission. "If Cassini runs out of fuel it would be uncontrolled and the possibility that it could crash-land on the moons of Titan and/or Enceladus is unacceptably high", said Maize.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency.

The ring crossings will provide wild, closeup imagery of Saturn's clouds and rings from never-before-seen angles. On a few of the crossings, Cassini is "kind of flirting with the edge of where we think it's safe", he noted. For the next five months, Cassini will explore the region between Saturn and its rings, where no man-made artefact has ever previously been. The probe will plunge beneath the rings and through the gap separating Saturn from its innermost ring.

The spacecraft will dive in between Saturn and its rings to study its composition before falling into planet's atmosphere. Titan has lakes and rivers and rain of liquid ethane and methane. It doesn't want to shower contaminating wreckage onto these worlds that might harbor life.

Cassini will now plunge to its ultimate end for the good of mankind as it begins a suicide descent towards Saturn.

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