06 April, 2017
At the end of these loops between the planet and its rings, the spacecraft will do a death dive into the planet.
After 13 years spent studying the giant planet, the probe is on its final mission. But in some ways, the mission's final phase that kicks off later this month could prove even more fruitful, with the deep-space probe making a series of daring passes through the gap between Saturn and its rings, where scientists expect it to make some of its most extraordinary discoveries before burning up in the atmosphere.
"The planned conclusion for Cassini's journey was far and away the preferred choice for the mission's scientists", says Linda Spilker (NASA-JPL) in a recent press release. In 2010, NASA chose to end the mission with a purposeful plunge into Saturn this year in order to protect and preserve the planet's moons for future exploration - especially the potentially habitable icy moon Enceladus.
Before it retires, Cassini will pass near Saturn and give us the closest look yet at what goes on in Saturn's rings.
Cassini has been a decades-long odyssey for the scientists involved, and the probe's 3-minute final dive into Saturn's atmosphere on September 15 will be a bittersweet moment, the researchers said.
Fed minutes - Debate over inflation, Trump
Fed watchers were not expected such a granular discussion at the meeting, thinking it would wait until the May or June meeting. The minutes showed that several Fed officials thought Trump's stimulus plans wouldn't likely begin before next year.
Hardy Boyz return to WWE in WrestleMania 33
In their first match back in seven years, the Hardy Boyz were able to capture the belts from atop the ladder. Matt and Jeff Hardy returning to the WWE seemed like the secret that wasn't exactly hidden.
Anthony Lynn believes Adrian Peterson will have 'a hell of a season'
The Patriots have yet to re-sign top 2016 running back LeGarrette Blount and are reportedly preparing for him to sign elsewhere . Versatile back Dion Lewis and Super Bowl LI hero James White are already under contract with the Patriots for the 2017.
During its mission, Cassini made close approaches to Mimas only seven flybys at distances of less than 31,000 miles (50,000 kilometers). But the mission could meet a premature end if a ring particle hits Cassini.
Cassini launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004.
"We're going to a place and obtaining data with the Cassini spacecraft, we could only obtain by doing it this way", she said. As it descends, it will struggle to keep its antenna pointed toward Earth to deliver atmospheric data about the planet's skies and in a matter of minutes, it will burn to a crisp and become one with Saturn.
"Cassini's own discoveries were its demise", Maize said.
"Getting this close to the rings and the planet, that is a once in a life time experience for a scientist like me", Spilker said.
Astronomer Fred Watson, from the Australian astronomical observatory, said the Cassini mission was one of the most successful NASA missions ever. Some of these moons-like Enceladus with its underground water oceans and Titan with its methane lakes and rivers-could potentially be home to primitive extraterrestrial life, and we can't risk contaminating them with the microbes on Cassini.