US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Cassini spacecraft, which has been on Saturn mission for 20 years, is about to die. NASA will kill the Cassini spacecraft worth USD 3.26 billion.
The Cassini probe is in its last lap, where it will take a series of daring steps as it will fly between Saturn and its rings between April and September. The probe will then take a plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn, will explode like a meteor and die.
On its last journey, the Cassini will make a close flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan and will leap over the icy rings of the planet, starting 22 weekly dives between the planet and its rings.
So, NASA will destroy its 20-year-old Cassini spacecraft. Here’s why:
The NASA Cassini spacecraft is running low on fuel as it has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004. NASA took this decision in order to protect and preserve Saturn’s moons, especially the potentially habitable Enceladus, for future exploration.
The thrilling finale will help NASA scientists to further understand how giant planets as well as planetary systems form and evolve.
What all will happen in the final chapter of Cassini spacecraft?
On Saturday, April 22, NASA’s Cassini will make a transition to its grand finale orbit. It will perform a last close flyby of Saturn's giant moon Titan on the same day.
As part of the Saturn mission’s grand finale, the Cassini probe will make first of a series of dives through the 1,500-mile-wide (2,400-kilometer) space between Saturn and its rings on Wednesday, April 26.
"No spacecraft has ever gone through the unique region that we'll attempt to boldly cross 22 times," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
On September 15, the NASA Cassini spacecraft will head towards its fateful plunge into Saturn and will beam back data from several instruments until it loses contact with Earth.
"This planned conclusion for Cassini's journey was far and away the preferred choice for the mission's scientists," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
"Cassini will make some of its most extraordinary observations at the end of its long life."
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The NASA team responsible for the mission hopes to seek strong insights into the internal structure of Saturn and the origin of the rings, get the first-ever sampling of atmosphere of Saturn and particles that come from the main ring and capture the closest-ever views of the clouds of the planet and its inner rings.