NASA Cassini Spacecraft To Finally Reach Saturn's Rings

By Erika Ivene - 30 Nov '16 06:16AM
  • Cassini Spacecraft Prepares To Enter Saturn's Orbit
  • (Photo : NASA via Getty Images) In this handout photo provided by NASA, Saturn appears in an image returned by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft on May 16, 2004, when its imaging science subsystem narrow-angle camera was too close to fit the entire planet in its field-of-view. Cassini is expected to enter the ringed planet's orbit on June 30, 2004. It has taken the spacecraft over 6 years to reach Saturn.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has never been readier to come to the closest distance it can get to Saturn's rings. Before the spacecraft bids its goodbye, it will brave itself to take one last orbit to the said planet--this time between Saturn and its rings.

The Cassini has been roaming through space for 20 years already. And after about 12 years of its journey around Saturn, this will be the first time it gets near the planet's rings. The spacecraft's orbit will bring it nearer to the main ring system that is approximately 5,000 miles to the planet's F ring, The Verge details.

This will be Cassini's last hurrah before it plunges deeper into Saturn's atmosphere, which will automatically cause its death. The death plunge is expected to take place on September 2017 and the duration before it happens is solely directed to what NASA calls the "Ring-Grazing Orbits."

The scientists behind this space mission express mixed emotions on the impending space event. Starting today, November 30 until April 22 of the coming year, Cassini will go about 20 times through the outer edge of the planet's rings.

According to Linda Spilker, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Cassini project scientist, there will be two instruments used to sample the particles and gasses as the spacecraft crosses the ring plane. Spilker added that Cassini will be "grazing on the rings," reports Space.com.

Since the Cassini will be closer than ever to Saturn, the scientists involved in the study will be able to obtain the measurements and other calculations that they have been trying to acquire for more than a decade already. So even if this would be the last activity that the Cassini spacecraft would be doing, its purpose was made.

However, this is just the start since the spacecraft will get even much closer to the rings with just about 1,012 miles. This will happen after the revolutions are done. Before its final plunge, the Cassini has performed a total of 294 orbits for the whole course of its existence. And thus, will finally be a part of Saturn's atmosphere after all.

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