60-Second Space

Saturn Probe Ready for Its "Grand Finale"

The Cassini probe readies for its final act with new flight patterns that will get unprecedented views of Saturn and culminate in a final dive into the planet's atmosphere. Clara Moskowitz reports   


After orbiting Saturn for 10 years, NASA’s Cassini probe is ready for its last hurrah.  
The spacecraft has already revolutionized our knowledge of the ringed planet and its moons. Cassini discovered spewing water-ice geysers on the moon Enceladus. It uncovered lakes, rivers and evidence for ocean waves on the moon Titan. It captured Saturn’s majestic rings in unprecedented detail, and even revealed the presence of previously unseen rings.
Now Cassini is gearing up for its final act. In 2016 the probe will embark on a series of dips and passes that should offer a whole new view of the Saturn system. The probe will dive between Saturn and its innermost ring 22 times over the course of about a year. It will climb high above the planet’s north pole, and skirt near the plumes jetting from Enceladus.
NASA recently solicited public suggestions for what to call this closing mission segment. The winning name, it was just announced, is “Grand Finale.” The mission will end in September 2017, when Cassini will have a dramatic death by plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere. What an exit!
—Clara Moskowitz
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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