Nasa's Cassini completes last flyby of Saturn's moon Titan

Pablo Tucker
September 13, 2017

Now that is has used up nearly every bit of its rocket propellant, the space agency said, operators will deliberately plunge Cassini into the planet to ensure its moons remain pristine for future exploration.

Cassini "GoodBye Kiss" for Titan: NASA Cassini spacecraft also made in depth plunges not just Saturn and its rings and manoeuvres to provide insights into the planet moons - Titan and Enceladus too.

Even though Cassini was sterilized before launching from Earth in 1997, it is possible some microbes survived on the spacecraft. No spacecraft has ever ventured so close to the planet before.

Scientists think both moons may be capable of supporting life.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a joint endeavour between NASA, and the European and Italian space agencies. Join NASA engineers for the tense and triumphant moments as they find out if their gambit has paid off, and discover the wonders that Cassini has revealed over the years.

The spacecraft's project manager says it's really like Cassini and Titan have been in a long-term relationship.

Cassini's missions have revolutionised our understanding of Saturn, giving us a portal to look at the processes that shaped the development of our solar system, as well as planetary systems around other stars.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory said the spacecraft was placed on an impact course in April that unfolded during five months of "daring dives-a series of 22 orbits that each passed between the planet and its rings".

Cassini is ending its 13-year tour of the Saturn system with an intentional plunge into the planet to ensure Saturn's moons - in particular Enceladus, with its subsurface ocean and signs of hydrothermal activity - remain pristine for future exploration, Dyches said.

Prepared for all contingencies, the spacecraft is equipped with two computers, two star scanners, two Sun sensors, two gyroscopes, and two radios.

The images and data that Cassini gathered during its closest approach to Titan on Monday will be sent back to Earth on Tuesday.

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