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NASA Explores Potential Saturn Missions to Succeed Cassini

NASA Explores Potential Saturn Missions to Succeed Cassini

If you're a Cassini fan-and the mission has picked up quite a few, including adorable six-year-olds-that's always going to be little sad. Saturn has been Cassini's home for the last 13 years.

Cassini arrived at Saturn on July 1, 2004, burning its main engine to slow down and be captured by Saturn's gravity.

The Cassini spacecraft has snapped its penultimate pics of Saturn's moon Titan.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is shown during its September 15, 2017, plunge into Saturn's atmosphere in this artist's depiction.

Scientists took the decision to kill off Cassini because of the remote possibility of the spacecraft colliding with Titan or Enceladus, both of which could be potential habitats for simple life forms.

Cassini has been beaming historic photos and data almost 1.6 billion kilometres back to Earth and a team of Australian scientists have been at the forefront of the mission. But outside those two communities, what will serve as the tangible reminders of the mission? Maize said that moment is his pick for the most wonderful part of the Cassini mission.

Other space stations in Madrid and California will also help monitor Cassini. That's when NASA guided Cassini into an orbital path that took it, for the first time ever, between Saturn and its rings.

The Cassini-Huygens mission has witnessed countless breath-taking phenomena.

Why was Cassini's mission significant?

"There is no substitute for a flagship mission", Lunine says.

The Cassini mission did result in several dedicated books, including a Haynes' Owners' Workshop Manual penned by Ralph Lorenz, a member of the Cassini radar team.

Diagram of Cassini's final week, showing some of the milestones as the spacecraft heads for its plunge into Saturn (times are predicted and subject to change).

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Cassini gazed toward the northern hemisphere of Saturn to spy subtle, multi-hued bands in the clouds there.

The United States contributed $2.6 billion to the project, the European Space Agency $500 million and the Italian Space Agency $160 million.

The Cassini space probe will be collecting scientific information right up to the moment it plunges into Saturn, and burns up.

The Royal Mail (UK) issued in 2012 a postage stamp that featured a Cassini image of Saturn and its rings. "I find great comfort in the fact that Cassini will continue teaching us up to the very last second".

"Some of our key science goals during the Grand Finale are trying to understand Saturn from the inside out, to figure out the length of a Saturn day and to determine the mass of the rings and the composition of Saturn's atmosphere", Spilker said.

"Cassini is not built for the atmosphere", Maize said.

It's sad and exhilarating for a University of Colorado Boulder scientist who's been involved in the mission for many years. This time, Cassini will dive into the planet's atmosphere, sending science data for as long as its small thrusters can keep the probe's antenna pointed at Earth.

The Canberra Deep Space Complex is assisting with the mission. Cassini has collected 450,000 images using a visible light camera.

"We have a whole set of commands that we have ready to go", Berkeley said.

Saturn is on average 890 million miles from Earth, and it takes around 83 minutes for radio waves to cross that distance at the speed of light, making communication hard. That's because scientists have been able to "pursue questions that we never thought Cassini would have the opportunity to answer", he said.

To study Saturn and its moons up close. "Just like nearly everything else in this mission, I expect to be completely surprised".

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