Beginning Of The End Of The Cassini Space Probe Mission [VIDEO]
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that the 20-year old Cassini space probe mission is winding down and will do the final series of missions starting April 26. It is expected to be deliberately crashed into Saturn's atmosphere by mid-September of this year.
The Cassini Space probe mission was launched in Oct. 15, 1997 and gave the first glimpse of its target, Saturn, in 2002. The probe gave NASA and the rest of the world a lot of dramatic pictures, new discoveries and a host of scientific data.
One of which is the discovery that the icy Enceladus, one of Saturn's 62 moons, indicated hydrothermal activity, NASA said on its website. Any form of water by the agency's standards is a great indication that a planet or satellite can support life.
The fact that Enceladus may be able to support life is the main reason why NASA decided that the Cassini space probe mission destroy itself in a planned crash. As the Cassini runs out of fuel, they will not be able to control its orbit because of the gravitational pull of the satellites around the planet and will increase the risk of actually crashing into one of the moons. The agency is trying to avoid accidentally putting tardigrades that may wipe out native life forms in the moon the probe will crash into, Popular Science reported.
The engineers at NASA will upload the last flight plan on the Cassini by April 11 that will last for the next five months. The final orbits around the Saturn will be more daring and will include exploration of the gap between the giant planet and its rings, capturing photos of the inner rings and planetary clouds, and sampling of particles coming from the main rings.
When the Cassini makes its plunge into Saturn in September, it will be true to its mission of exploring the giant planet and will point its transmitters to Earth to beam back scientific data until signal is lost.