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B Cassini's last days...

  1. Apr 27, 2017 #1
    NASA's Cassini spacecraft re-established contact with ground controllers shortly before 3 a.m. ET after passing through the gap between Saturn and the planet's rings. NASA says the probe is now beaming back data gathered during the "dive."

    Cassini was out of contact as it began its journey into the gap because the spacecraft's dish antenna was used as a shield to protect it from possible damage from ring particles. The antenna had been oriented away from Earth. Cassini was out of contact for about 22 hours.

    In a NASA statement, the project manager said all had gone as hoped:

    " 'No spacecraft has ever been this close to Saturn before. We could only rely on predictions, based on our experience with Saturn's other rings, of what we thought this gap between the rings and Saturn would be like,' said Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. 'I am delighted to report that Cassini shot through the gap just as we planned and has come out the other side in excellent shape.' "

    Cassini's Grand Finale, as it weaves its way between Saturn and its rings in a series of 22 dives that will culminate in what the agency describes as "a science-rich plunge into Saturn's atmosphere on Sept. 15."

    Cassini was launched in 1997; its mission is slated to end one month before the 20-year mark.

    NASA said Cassini came within about 1,900 miles of Saturn's cloud tops and about 200 miles from the innermost edge of Saturn's rings. Project scientists believe ring particles in the gap are no bigger than smoke particles and were confident they would not pose a threat to the spacecraft.
     
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  3. Apr 27, 2017 #2

    berkeman

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    Staff: Mentor

  4. Apr 27, 2017 #3
    Are the blue arches how far the probe will make the many passes? They are very far out or is the distance relative?
     
  5. Apr 27, 2017 #4

    berkeman

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    They look like the actual orbit paths to me. See how each one now is diving through the gap between Saturn and its innermost ring?
     
  6. Apr 27, 2017 #5
    That's what I thought, but if those passes are so far away from Saturn how can the probe crash into the planet? I am guessing on the last pass it doesn't come out of the gravity field.
     
  7. Apr 27, 2017 #6

    berkeman

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    Yep. Spash! :smile:
     
  8. Apr 27, 2017 #7
    I am imagining how awesome (per say) it would be to be inside that probe watching the fall, of course it will be a one way trip for anyone.

    I hope they record the fall pointing the camera toward the planet. It will be scary but amazing to see it.
     
  9. Apr 27, 2017 #8
    I think it's likely that that will do that since there will be no longer be a motivation to protect instruments aboard the craft.
    It will be the only chance to look at the planet's cloud tops close up for quite a while.
    I suppose the main consideration though will be to keep the transmitter sending data for as long as possible.
     
  10. Apr 27, 2017 #9
    I mean exactly what you said in the last sentence... even if not live but allow the general public to view the "fall" in first person view.
     
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