Following over a decade of ground-breaking discoveries, Cassini is now approaching its mission end.
With little fuel left to correct the NASA’s spacecraft trajectory, it has been decided to end the mission by plunging it into Saturn’s atmosphere on 15 September 2017. In the process, Cassini will burn up, satisfying planetary protection requirements to avoid possible contamination of any moons of Saturn that could have conditions suitable for life. These include Saturn’s largest moon Titan and Enceladus, which has a liquid ocean under its icy crust.
The grand finale is not only a spectacular way to complete this extraordinary mission, but will also return a bounty of unique scientific data that was not possible to collect during the previous phases of the mission. Cassini has never ventured into the area between Saturn and its rings before, so the new set of orbits is almost like a whole new mission.
These close orbits will provide the highest resolution observations ever achieved of the inner rings and the planet’s clouds. The orbits will also give the chance to examine in situ the material in the rings and plasma environment of Saturn. It will also probe the planet’s magnetic field at close distances.
This video explains Cassini ‘s final operations, what the Cassini-Huygens mission has taught us about Saturn, the potential for life on its moons and the promise of more science to come.
More about Cassini-Huygens:
Cassini-Huygens: Historic adventure
NASA Previews ‘Grand Finale’ of Cassini Saturn Mission
ESA Euronews: Endspurt am Saturn
Cassini End of Mission Commentary
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