NASA's Cassini spacecraft's bid to get an unprecedented view of Saturn's atmosphere is currently underway with the spacecraft plunging into the gap between Saturn and its rings. Communications with the spacecraft have blurred during the dive and will resume on Thursday. Nasa said Cassini's mission will officially terminate on September 15, in a planned 'death dive' into Saturn.
The first of the spaceship's 22 deep dives between Saturn and its innermost ring began on Wednesday at 10am BST (5am ET).
Communications with the spacecraft have gone dark during the dive and will remain so for about a day afterwards while it makes scientific observations of the planet.
'Images and other data are expected to begin flowing in shortly after communication is established,' NASA said.
Cassini is a 20-year-old joint mission of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The 22-foot-tall (6.7 meter) spacecraft launched in 1997 and began orbiting Saturn in 2004. But the craft is now running low on fuel, and will make a death plunge into Saturn's surface on September 15.
Cassini has started its first in a series of dives through the 1,500-mile-wide (2,400km) gap between Saturn and its rings which will eventually see it destroyed by the planet's atmosphere. The spacecraft’s science instruments are collecting data but Cassini is not, yet, in contact with Earth.
To mark the occasion, Google has released a Doodle animation showing the plunging probe travelling through Saturn's rings taking photos before it takes a selfie.
"By plunging into this fascinating frontier, Cassini will help scientists learn more about the origins, mass, and age of Saturn's rings, as well as the mysteries of the gas giant's interior," explained Google. "And of course there will be breathtaking additions to Cassini's already stunning photo gallery."