After orbiting the gas giant for over thirteen years, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is all set to conduct its "Death Dive to Saturn" on September 15.
Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, labels Cassini as Saturn’s first planetary probe and calls it a mission that has been packed full of scientific firsts and will continue to provide unique planetary revelations until the last second.
Cassini's final plunge:
September 14: Cassini, which has offered a never-before-seen look into the gas giant, will take last images of moons Titan and Enceladus. It will also capture the hexagon-shaped jet stream around the planet's north pole, and features in the rings.
5:45 PM EDT: Cassini’s antenna will turn towards the Earth. The spacecraft will then beam back final images and data.
September 15, 4:37 AM EDT: The ‘final plunge’ will start and during this phase, Cassini will begin sending real time data. It will roll itself for optimal sampling of the atmosphere.
7:53 AM EDT: The spacecraft will step into the Saturn's atmosphere, at an altitude of about 1,190 miles above the planet's estimated cloud tops. During its dive into the atmosphere, the spacecraft's speed will be approximately 70,000 miles per hour. After making an entry, the thrusters would be firing at 10% capability to maintain directional stability. Till this time, it will be sending the data.
7:55 AM EDT: Cassini’s thrusters will be at their full capacity and mission’s final calculations predict loss of contact, bringing an end to the maneuver has been dubbed as the "goodbye kiss."