The End of Cassini Draws Near


Tomorrow is a sad day for people who love science. It will be a day that will mark the end of Cassini. This is a spacecraft that had been tasked with studying the rings of Saturn, its many moons as well as the planet itself. The spacecraft will be accelerated towards the planet’s clouds on Friday. To better understand the nature of the mission, Cassini used to fly above the Saturn clouds. The atmosphere where the spacecraft flew was thin and probably vacuum space. Compared to our earth, Cassini can be compared to the International Space Station. This is according to Earl Maize who has been the project manager of the mission for the last few years. During the destruction phase, Cassini will be travelling at 76,000 miles per hour. This makes it possible for even a few molecules from the planet to destroy the spacecraft completely. The project manager said that the destruction of Cassini will be over in two minutes. He further emphasized that one minute should even be enough. This was the plan from the beginning. While designing the spacecraft in 1997, NASA scientists knew that this day would come.

Need for destruction
Cassini is being destroyed because it’s running out of fuel. At the same time, NASA has made it clear that they want to leave the Saturn system as clean as they found it. Despite being launched in 1997, the spacecraft might contain microbial hitchhikers that may interfere with Saturn atmosphere. At the same time, it’s the desire of planetary scientists to avoid a collision with Enceladus and Titan. For starters, these are two moons from Saturn that may support life. This is not the first destruction of a spacecraft under similar circumstance. In 2003, NASA resolved to destroy Galileo orbiter. The spacecraft was plunged into Jupiter clouds. The main aim of this was to protect Europa which is a moon of Jupiter. Scientists believe that the moon could support life. NASA scientists decided to end the mission on Monday when the spacecraft flew very close to Titan. This was the 127th time that Cassini was flying past the moon. Wednesday and Thursday were the last days for Cassini to take images of Saturn, its rings and of its moons. One of the images will identify the place where the spacecraft will disintegrate. The Cassini is keeping its antenna projected towards planet earth for image transmission. Cameras will be turned off during the destruction phase.


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