It seems this week that the space world is bubbling with excitement about Saturn! That’s because NASA released its final mission plans for the spacecraft Cassini, who will end her 13 years of service later this year. Beginning on April 26th, NASA plans on sending the spacecraft through several “dives” in the 1,500-mile gap between the rings of Saturn and the gas giant. After completing 22 dives, scientists will crash the probe into the gassy planet in a fond farewell.
In a press release from NASA, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington, Thomas Zurbuchen stated that scientists hope to increase “our understanding of how giant planets, and planetary systems everywhere, form and evolve.” Specifically, NASA is hoping to answer some important questions about what the planet looks like on the inside, where the rings of Saturn originally came from, and come away with never before seen close up shots of Saturn’s clouds and inner rings.
Launched in 1997, Cassini has been used to make exciting new discoveries about the giant blue planet. Without this spacecraft, scientists would have never discovered that two of Saturn’s moons have oceans on them. However, according to Linda Spilker, a project scientist, “Cassini will make some of its most extraordinary observations at the end of its long life. It’s a thrilling final chapter for out intrepid spacecraft, and so scientifically rich that it was the clear and obvious choice for how to end the mission.” Bon Voyage, Cassini. Thank you for increasing our knowledge of our universe!