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NASA's Cassini SpaceCraft Prapares Its First Ring-Grazing Dive Around Saturn

First Posted: Dec 07, 2016 01:09 PM EST
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Space X cargo capsule returns home
Cassini spacecraft in Earth swing

Photo : NASA / Handout

Cassini spacecraft has started its five dive thrilling journey around Saturn on Sunday, December 4. The spacecraft was launched on 1997 and has been touring Saturn's ring system since 2004 for an up-close study and research of the planet and its rings and moons.

The first close dive mission in the other edges of Saturn's ring is called "Endgame." According to NASA, it is the beginning of a meaningful journey where the spacecraft flies across the ring plane and eventually impact the giant planet on September 15, 2017.

Since 2004, Cassini spacecraft has been traveling the Saturnian system to study its rings and moons. Among the discoveries that the spacecraft had was the methane lakes on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, and an ocean that shows a sign of hydrothermal activity on the moon.

While orbiting around the planet, the spacecraft performed a short burn of its main engine that lasted for almost six seconds. Cassini closed its canopy-like engine cover as a protective measure 30 minutes before approaching the ring plane.

"With this small adjustment to the spacecraft's trajectory, we're in excellent shape to make the most of this new phase of the mission," Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California said.

Few hours after Cassini's crossing, the space craft's imaging cameras have obtained views of Saturn two days before it crosses through the ring plane. It began to perform a complete scan across the ring with its radio science experiment to study the planet's structure in detailed.

According to Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Cassini's imaging cameras have obtained views of the planet Saturn two days before crossing the ring plane. The focus of the first close pass was the engine maneuver and the space craft's observation with other science instruments.

And a few hours after the ring-plane crossing, Cassini has finally completed the scan with its radio science experiment.

"It's taken years of planning, but now that we're finally here, the whole Cassini team is excited to begin studying the data that come from these ring-grazing orbits," Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist said.

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