Cassini space probe to be killed off

The Cassini space probe is soon to be killed off and sent on a spectacular space dive into Saturn's atmosphere ending a 20-year mission during which it's discovered a wealth of scientific data on the planet and its moons.

The same might be true for Cassini's place in pop culture. Here are a few things to know about the end of this mission.

Cassini's final chapter began with its last Titan flyby, on Monday (Sept. 11), which gave the probe the nudge it needed to head toward Saturn.

As Cassini approaches Saturn, it will continue taking photos of the planet, its rings and moons, with its final images expected to be received Thursday night. There are fascinating images of geysers shooting from Enceladus's south pole, attractive images of Saturn's rings (including one with Saturn's shadow falling on them), and a zoomed-in view of Epimetheus (another of Saturn's moons). "The entire concept of "ocean worlds" as revealed by Cassini and [earlier NASA probe] Galileo may well drive future outer planet exploration".

"The scientific legacy of the mission will extend long beyond its fiery end in the clouds of Saturn". But outside those two communities, what will serve as the tangible reminders of the mission?

The spacecraft was named after Giovanni Domenico Cassini, the 17th century Italian-French astronomer. The mission launched in 1997, and has essentially revolutionized our understanding of how Saturn and its complex system of 53 official moons works.

Via an global collaboration, Cassini brought Europe's Huygens lander to the Saturn system and dropped it down on Titan, giving Earthlings a stunning view of the moon's liquid oceans and complex organic atmosphere. Not knowing that its death has been carefully scripted, Cassini may try to alert mission control that something has gone horribly wrong.

In 2004, Cassini became a "Cool Kids Combo" meal toy offered by Hardee's and Carl's Jr. fast food restaurants.

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Why was Cassini's mission significant?

"It is as detailed and handsome as the ones that you can buy in a gift shop", Barber said. Cassini's sacrifice will be remembered for ever. Cassini will then plunge into the planet at a speed of about 70,000 miles per hour. When Cassini arrived, the northern hemisphere of Saturn was emerging from winter.

This far from the sun, Cassini's power had to come from a small plutonium-fuelled nuclear reactor rather than the familiar solar panels seen on many space probes.

The Royal Mail (UK) issued in 2012 a postage stamp that featured a Cassini image of Saturn and its rings.

"But I think all of us have a great sense of pride ..." "Almost like we've taken a magnifying glass to the planet and the rings".

"Cassini is not built for the atmosphere", Maize said. The spacecraft found that the region between Saturn and its rings are dust-free, a surprising discovery because the rings itself are primarily made up of dust particles.

Sometimes that astonishment was able to reach beyond just the space community and attract the public at large, especially once social media emerged well into the Cassini mission's timeline. Cassini has collected 450,000 images using a visible light camera. "We did it.' Cassini was so profoundly, scientifically successful", said planetary scientist Carolyn Porco at the University of California, Berkeley.

"We'll be sending data in near real time as we rush headlong into the atmosphere - it's truly a first-of-its-kind event at Saturn". The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 870,000 miles (1.4 million km) from Saturn.


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