With more than 3,5 billion kilometers traveled for 20 years, Cassini had successfully passed the tests, now the orbiter begins its last mission which will be, unfortunately, fatal to its life. Cassini has been going to Saturn since this Wednesday, April 26th 2017.
The way will be rough for Cassini because simultaneously orbiter and space probe, Cassini will have to try to avoid Saturn’s rings to remain in orbit during 22 rotations. After that, in September 2017, running out of fuel, it will move towards the planet to disintegrate itself in Saturn’s atmosphere with the aim of sending last data. However, it must avoid any contaminations with the surrounding moons, in particular Encelade that might support life.
For all these feats, Cassini launched in 1997, is honored today, by Google
From its 7 years journey towards Saturn until the recent discoveries concerning Encelade, Cassini has revealed extraordinary pictures and important details such as – the discovery of new moons, the verification of the general relativity (accuracy on the curvature of space-time), the magnetosphere of Saturn, the complexity of the rings, geysers on Encelade, new information about Titan and all of this will have enabled us to have a new understanding of our physics and our solar system.
In January 2005, Cassini was separated from its friend Huygens, its atmospheric entry probe intended to settle on Titan. It obtained new data concerning the hydrocarbons lakes on Titan. In April 2017, the American and European space agencies informed us about geysers of water on Encelade insinuating the existence of an extraterrestrial life.
A wonderful adventure for Cassini whose its operating life turned out exceptionally long and which showed us an excellent reliability during all these years. Before switching off, the probe will send us information that no probe was able to offer us until now. Before its last breath, we will receive a mapping of the Saturn gravity field, the composition of its internal core, new images of Saturn’s clouds and data allowing us to understand the formation of this kind of huge planets.
In figures, the Cassini-Saturn’s mission, it’s :
- Rings of a 300 000 kilometers width comparable to the distance Earth-moon
- Very fine rings, 10 000 kilometers thickness
- An average temperature of -180 °C
- A distance Earth – Saturn of 1.5 billion kilometers
- One rotation of Saturn is made in 10 hours and 30 minutes
- A rotation around the Sun in 29,5 years
- 62 satellites swirling around Saturn
- 50 seconds is the time for the sunlight to arrive on Saturn
- Equivalent volume of 900 times the Earth