Cassini Mission prepares for Grand Finale and destruction in Saturn

  1. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    The Cassini probe around Saturn is about to make a course change that will result in some of the cloest approaches yet to the gas giant. And then, in September, when its fuel has almost run out, it will plunge into Saturn's atmosphere for one last mission:

    Cassini: Mission to Saturn: Overview

     
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  2. Alexa

    Alexa traveller space dreamer

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    We should follow up for this article in September and see the photos, once available.:)
     
  3. mosaix

    mosaix Shropshire, U.K.

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    Fantastic science!
     
  4. Alexa

    Alexa traveller space dreamer

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    This unprocessed image shows features in Saturn's atmosphere from closer than ever before. The view was captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its first Grand Finale dive past the planet on April 26, 2017.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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  6. Stephen Palmer

    Stephen Palmer author of novels

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    yes, I checked that out.
    Gosh, I really hope I survive to see the results of the Enceladus mission!!
     
  7. Alexa

    Alexa traveller space dreamer

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    Earth looks so small 1.44 billion km away.
     
  8. Vertigo

    Vertigo Mad Mountain Man

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  9. REBerg

    REBerg Registered Alien

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  10. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    I'm looking forward to finding out what data it did actually send. :)
     
  11. Alexa

    Alexa traveller space dreamer

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    Somebody asked why they had to crash it. Apparently scientists wanted to be sure that any proof of life will be not contaminated from the Earth.
     
  12. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Physics is Phutile, Fiziks is Fundamental

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    Refueling cost too much.
     
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  13. Vertigo

    Vertigo Mad Mountain Man

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    That's right because if it had crashed into a cold world like Enceladus then there was a remote chance that terran microbes may have contaminated it. By burning up at incredibly high temperatures in the atmosphere of Saturn they can be very certain any microbes on Cassini will have been sterilised.

    Interesting that we've never worried too much about that on Mars or Titan when it comes to landing probes...
     
  14. Dave

    Dave Wherever I Am, I'm There Staff Member

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    I agree, the early space programme was incredibly worried about contagion from space, and very careful about decontamination on the return of astronauts, but little thought given to, the real threat from, sending and landing probes.

    Does anyone know when they will release the data taken during the journey through the atmosphere?
     
  15. Vertigo

    Vertigo Mad Mountain Man

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    I don't think the data will be anything very spectacular for laymen; I suspect it will mostly be information on the make up of the upper atmosphere. Also there's only a few minutes of data before the wobble caused by the atmosphere resulted in loss of contact. Though apparently even that lasted longer than expected.

    On the contamination thing I agree except it's not just the early programs that are 'guilty' of this and this is what I find a little irritating about the given explanation:

    You see it was this very same mission - Cassini-Huygens to give it it's full name - that landed the Huygens probe on Titan, so had Cassini crashed on Titan it couldn't really have done any more damage than Huygens has already done. Actually less, as Titan has an atmosphere crashing Cassini there would have resulted in it buring up unlike Huygens' controlled parachute descent.

    Surely the real reason is that it was running out of fuel so why not use that last bit of fuel to gather some final data from Saturn's atmosphere. Isn't that a good enough reason?
     
  16. Dave

    Dave Wherever I Am, I'm There Staff Member

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    Maybe they thought Huygens was sufficiently sterile. Satellites and spacecraft are built in the cleanest conditions imaginable since even a small particle of dust can cause damage - so negative air conditioning with special filters and people wearing disposable shoes, gloves, face masks and clothes. (I'm assuming Huygens was inside the outer casing of Cassini, but that Cassini itself would have been exposed to Earth atmosphere during its launch. That could be wrong, in which case I have no more explanation for the statement than you.)
     
  17. Stephen Palmer

    Stephen Palmer author of novels

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    The Cassini gallery in the New York Times is a stunner if folks here haven't seen it.
     
  18. Stephen Palmer

    Stephen Palmer author of novels

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    I had the impression that life on Titan was virtually zero chance because of the temperature, whereas life on Enceladus - at the deeps of the ocean - is far more likely as it'll be quite warm there.
     
  19. Vertigo

    Vertigo Mad Mountain Man

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    A good point: you may well be right about that.
    Yeah I agree but the scientists are quoted as saying they didn't want to risk contaminating Enceladus or Titan. That's what I thought was slightly dodgy logic but, as Dave says, maybe there was much less chance of Huygens being contaminated.

    Mind you, as discussed on a previous occasion, if we do find life on Enceladus or anywhere else, unless it has a radically different makeup to terran life it will instantly be blamed on contamination no matter how careful we are. Or attributed to panspermia.
     
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  20. REBerg

    REBerg Registered Alien

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