Published: Thu, September 14, 2017
Science | By Hubert Green

The Cassini spacecraft nears its voyage end - and a 70000 miles per hour crash

The Cassini spacecraft nears its voyage end - and a 70000 miles per hour crash

"In 2010, NASA made a decision to end the mission with a purposeful plunge into Saturn this year in order to protect and preserve the planet's moons for future exploration - especially the potentially habitable Enceladus", the statement read.

Mission managers have confirmed that Cassini is on course toward the ringed planet, which the ship has been circling for the past 13 years.

As Cassini approaches Saturn, it will continue taking photos of the planet, its rings and moons, with its final images expected to be received Thursday night.

It's launch took place on October 15, 1997, making it a historically pertinent piece of scientific history that's older than me.

"We'll be saddened, there's no doubt about it, at the loss of such an incredible machine", Maize said. We set out to do something at Saturn, we did it, we did it extremely well, and we delivered more and more.

"We see extensive, rapid recycling of ring material in which moons are continually shattered into ring particles, which then gather and reform moons".

The reason NASA is destroying Cassini is because of the spacecraft's most astonishing discovery. "It will radiate across the solar system for almost an hour and a half after Cassini itself has gone".

Over the years, Cassini has revealed new insight about Saturn, its rings and how they operate, the complexities of Saturn's moons, the history of the solar system and planet formation and even the other places in our solar system where life might exist - ocean worlds. They are named for 17th-century astronomers, Italian Giovanni Domenico Cassini and Dutch Christiaan Huygens, who spotted Saturn's first moon, Titan.

Over at the little moon Enceladus, Cassini unveiled plumes of water vapor spewing from cracks at the south pole.

"Cassini has enabled those future missions to be possible", said Jim Green, NASA's director of planetary science. However, it will show an animation of Cassini's position.

NASA expects the last signal - and confirmation of the probe's destruction - to arrive at Earth around 7:56 a.m. EDT. Hosts will cover the ins and outs of the final moments live from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, where the mission is headquartered.

If the YouTube feed above stops working, NASA TV also has a channel on Ustream.

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