NASA details Cassini's final plunge on Friday

This graphic shows Cassini's final plunge toward Saturn with tick marks representing time intervals of 2 minutes leading to the spacecraft's entry into the atmosphere

This graphic shows Cassini's final plunge toward Saturn with tick marks representing time intervals of 2 minutes leading to the spacecraft's entry into the atmosphere

"Cassini will be vaporized in maybe two minutes", Maize said. The end is in sight.

To protect those Enceladus and Titan from contamination with Earth life, Cassini is going to dive down into Saturn's atmosphere before the probe runs out of fuel, which could have left it drifting on a collision course with the planet's moons. Within minutes it will vaporise in the cloud tops of the ringed planet after valiantly fighting a battle it has no hope of winning.

Cassini is the only spacecraft to have ever orbited Saturn, and it spent the previous five months exploring the massive planet and its rings. Data from the spacecraft indicate Saturn's rings - which consist of icy bits ranging in size from dust to mountains - may be on the less massive side. "It will last not very long and I think we will all shed a tear because it's been a 30-year experience, not only with the spacecraft, but with each other", Larry said.

"Enceladus has no business existing", Niebur added, "and yet there it is - practically screaming at us, 'Look at me!"

Cassini had its closest approach with Saturn's moon Titan on Monday, dubbed a "goodbye kiss" by the mission's engineers because it provides the gravity assist that sends it on its final encounter with Saturn.

The Canberra space complex was given the key role of transmitting Cassini's final images of Saturn because the planet will be hovering above Australia on Friday. While there will be few dry eyes Friday, Cassini's grand finale will be especially emotional for Larry and Jason Soderblom. "It got the velocity change it needed, and now it's on its way into Saturn". By the early morning hours Friday, it was expected to enter its atmosphere and disintegrate.

Surface observations on Titan are planned at LPL, and then sent to the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations, or CICLOPS, at the University of Colorado, Boulder, which Porco heads as director.

In response to a call from NASA, people around the world shared more than 1,400 images of themselves waving at Saturn on July 19, 2013, the same day that Cassini turned its camera back toward the direction of the Saturn-eclipsed sun and took an image of Earth in the process.

Apple Watch Series 3 revealed with built-in cellular connectivity
The company claims it will offer 70 per cent more performance, while being 85 per cent faster and 50 per cent more efficient. When you are away from your phone, the watch automatically switches to the cellular signal.

At the same time, the spacecraft will reconfigure its systems to allow real-time data transmission back to Earth.

Launched in 1997, Cassini has been touring the Saturn system since arriving there in 2004.

Atmospheric models suggest that the spacecraft's last signal will be received back on Earth at 7:55:06 a.m. EDT (1155:06 GMT; 4:55:06 a.m. PDT). "Right now we are on track for making "three-ish" teams very, very happy just in time for Christmas", said Curt Niebur of NASA Headquarters at a September 6 meeting of the Outer Planets Assessment Group, discussing the ongoing evaluation of New Frontiers proposals. During its time, Cassini discovered six new moons as well as new rings.

Researchers have high hopes for the final dive.

But the far-flung spacecraft will be unceremoniously destroyed when it enters the planet's gaseous atmosphere tomorrow night.

"To actually see this plume of water vapor and waterized particles coming out of the south pole of a moon that's only 300 miles [480 kilometers] across was absolutely astonishing", Spilker said at the teleconference.

"Cassini will be giving us information right down to her very last breath of data".

Recommended News

We are pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news.
Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper.
Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.