Published: Wed, September 13, 2017
Science | By Hubert Green

NASA's Cassini makes final flyby of Saturn's giant moon

NASA's Cassini makes final flyby of Saturn's giant moon

NASA's Cassini spacecraft entered its final week with the last of 22 dives between Saturn and its rings on Saturday, September 9.

In fact, Saturn icy moon, one of the Cassini biggest revelations includes unveiling Enceladus and the fact that it has numerous components needed for life.

The spacecraft operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena made Monday's closest approach to Titan at 12:04 an altitude of 73,974 miles above the moon's surface, according to Preston Dyches, a science communications specialist with the laboratory.

The spacecraft's project manager says it's really like Cassini and Titan have been in a long-term relationship. Its self-destruction will ensure Saturn's moons remain unharmed by the remnants of the spacecraft, as some of the moons are thought to be the most likely places in the solar system for life to have developed. Join NASA engineers for the tense and triumphant moments as they find out if their gambit has paid off, and discover the wonders that Cassini has revealed over the years.

"This final encounter is something of a bittersweet goodbye, but as it has done throughout the mission, Titan's gravity is once again sending Cassini where we need it to go", Maize added. Titan also has lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbons on its surface.

Cassini's revelations about Titan have been some of the most significant discoveries in the entire mission.

Even though Cassini was sterilized before launching from Earth in 1997, it is possible some microbes survived on the spacecraft.

14-hour timelapse of Saturn's moon Enceladus as observed by Cassini.

Cassini will collect vital data that was too risky to obtain earlier in the mission including detailed maps of Saturn's gravity and magnetic fields and extreme close-ups of Saturn's rings and clouds.

On Friday the craft will be ripped apart by Saturn's atmosphere and its materials will be entirely consumed by the planet's gases.

NASA notes if Cassini's mission didn't end this way, there's a chance the craft could eventually crash into Titan and potentially contaminate future studies.

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