NASA Saturn Mission Latest News: Cassini Spacecraft Gears Up For a Final Dive Into Saturn’s Rings As Its Death Plunge Draws Near

By Arianne Gift , Updated Nov 29, 2016 03:27 AM EST

After 12 years of circling the Saturn system, the Cassini will finally infiltrate a new orbit that's set to bring the spacecraft closer than it has ever been before to Saturn's famous rings. Cassini will be within almost 5,000 miles of what NASA calls Saturn's F ring, the border of the main ring system. Ironically, this marks the beginning of the end of the NASA Saturn mission.

NASA's Saturn mission will deepen the study of the particles and gas molecules that loiter near the rings, and observe the tiny moons that orbit along the rings' edges. Cassini has been floating around in space for 20 years now and drawing closer to the Ring-Grazing orbits will serve as the commencement of Cassini's grand finale, reports NASA.

The End of the NASA Saturn Mission: Cassini To Perform a Death Plunge

On September 15, 2017, Cassini will perform a death dive into Saturn's atmosphere after it completes lunging through Saturn's inner rings and cloud tops. As of this writing, Cassini is on its second to last flyby on Titan, Saturn's largest moon. NASA's Saturn mission is currently taking infrared images of the moon, and observing Titan's northern hemisphere to check if any changes has transpired over the last few years.

Moreover, scientists will be able to understand what makes up Titan's atmosphere through Cassini's infrared spectrometer. Cassini is scheduled to enter the new orbit come November 30 and will stay on this path until April 2017. For the duration of the NASA Saturn mission, the spacecraft will dive near Saturn's F ring for 20 times.

Why NASA's Saturn Mission Has To End

According to Space, NASA's Saturn mission has to end because the spacecraft is running low on fuel. Eventually, NASA would lose control of Cassini if fuel supplies are limited. Furthermore, NASA is adamant not to accidentally contaminate Titan or Enceladus. Both moons show potential of supporting life, with stowaway microbes from Earth.

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