Cassini: Grand Finale

     Since its launch in 1997, the Cassini satellite’s mission was to become the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn and collect data about the planet and its moons. During Cassini’s $3.2 billion trip to Saturn, the satellite detected lakes of ice blasting from geysers at the south pole of the moon Enceladus and dropped a lander on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. After 10 long years collecting data for NASA, the Cassini satellite is running out of juice and will soon not be able to transmit to Earth. In order to maximize Cassini’s mission, NASA has decided to send the satellite between the first set of Saturn’s rings and the planet in order to map the planet’s gravitational and magnetic fields in detail, asses the contents of the giant planet’s rings and take close-up pictures of the gas giant. This end to the satellite’s mission was labeled “Cassini’s Grand Finale” by the 2,000 people who have been working on the Cassini project between development and now. This ending will ensure that the great Cassini satellite will go out with a bang and will make the most of the project. Interestingly, NASA has taken the precaution of steering Cassini into the lifeless gas giant rather than into Titan or Enceladus, which may host indigenous life. For those of you unfamiliar with NASA’s peanut meme, good-luck peanuts first appeared in 1964 at the launch of the Ranger 7. The previous six launches failed but the seventh succeeded because there were peanuts present. Since that launch in 1964 the good-luck snack has appeared at many famous launches, including the Cassini launch. The snack has been appearing during mission critical happenings such as, orbit insertions, flybys and landings. The naming of Cassini’s retirement and the lucky snack are evidence that NASA and with it space work isn’t always deathly serious as the public perceives it to be. The Cassini retirement is planned to happen in the start of July 2017.


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