Cassini 'GoodBye Kiss' for Titan

13 September, 2017, 03:21 | Author: Patsy Dennis
  • A rendering of Cassini’s Grand Finale orbits.    
   Image NASA  JPL-Caltech

This adds Titan to the growing list of solar system worlds with underground oceans that could potentially host microbial life, including fellow Saturn moon Enceladus, Jupiter's moons Europa and Ganymede, dwarf planets Ceres and Pluto, and Neptune's moon Triton.

So, Cassini wouldn't just be saying goodbye to Saturn, it will also take one last look at its two moons before it makes a death dive into the planet's atmosphere and explode like a meteor, thereby marking the end of its 13-year mission.

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The plan for that phase of the mission was to expend all of Cassini's propellant while exploring the ringed planet, ending with a dive into Saturn's atmosphere. The spacecraft also carried Huygens probe, the first man-made object which was delivered to the distant outer space and on the surface of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.

Little was known about the moon before the spacecraft sent the small Huygens robot to its surface in 2005.

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During those hundreds of passes, Cassini's discovered liquid seas and lakes made of liquid methane. The space craft has spent almost 14 years which is equivalent to half year as per Saturn where 1 year is equivalent to 29 Earth years. Because of it, scientists believe, it is hard to estimate the rotational velocity of Saturn since it is devoid of any solid surface. Our earth's axis is slightly tilted from our actual magnetic poles, however, both of them perfectly aligns when it comes to Saturn. Because of insufficient fuel, it would fail and might end up being in a state where the navigation crew loses its control.

Until Cassini's arrival at Saturn in 2004, humanity had never viewed Saturn up close and personal. Now, we know more about Saturn's chaotic, active, and powerful rings, and the storms that rage beneath. The spacecraft's fateful dive is the final beat in the mission's Grand Finale, 22 weekly dives (begun in late April) through the gap between Saturn and its rings.

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Cassini will have been destroyed for about 83 minutes before its final signal reaches NASA's Deep Space Network's Canberra station in Australia.

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