The last ride – Adieu, Cassini!

Image Credit: NASA
Goodbyes are hard… No matter whom or what you bid Goodbye to. And it’s time to bid farewell to one of space science achievement – Cassini Spacecraft, which is on its course to doom.
I write this article as an thank you and a tribute. Get ready for a wonderful ride.
What is Cassini-Huygens?
Cassini-Huygens is an unmanned spacecraft sent to study Saturn. On October 15 1997, Cassini was launched along with Huygens to orbit Saturn and the latter was scheduled to land on Saturn’s moon Titan to study and send data back to Earth. The spacecraft contained powerful cameras and could sense better our very own senses. It could see wavelengths of light and energy which is not visible to humans. It also could “feel” magnetic fields and tiny dust particles. Cassini is on its final count down and is schedule to crash into Saturn’s atmosphere on September 15th 2017.
Its original mission was to:
  1. Study the rings of Saturn and determine the three dimensional structure.
  2. Study its moon and geological history.
  3. Determine the nature and the origin of the dark material on Iapetus’s hemisphere(One of Saturn’s moon).
  4. Measure the structure and behavior of the magnetosphere.
  5. Study Saturn’s atmosphere, Titan’s clouds and hazes and its characteristics.
Its findings –  A summary:
  1. Huygens landing on Titan revealed that its surface and atmosphere is much like Earth before life evolved. It even has rain, lakes and rivers. Unlike Earth which has Hydrogen dioxide, Titan has methane and ethane.
  2. Cassini found evidence of ice-based water in the plume on Enceladus – Life as we know, relies on water led scientist to start their search for life on this moon.
  3. Saturn’s ring, which has always been a beauty(to me) proved to be dynamic and the spacecraft’s discovery suggests that there could be new moon formation. Did you know: Saturn’s rings are made up of particles that size ranges from a grain of sand to huge mountains?
  4. Huge giant gas planet’s rotation is a complication and a mystery. Even with the data collected by Cassini, Saturn’s length of the day still remains a mystery.
  5. And most of all, brilliant images of Saturn, its rings and its moons were sent back to Earth which also answered so many questions – I am not getting into details. Dont worry.
There are still so many mysteries left. So why end it? Well, call it a bonus mission and having no other choice.
Right now, Cassini is in a daring new mission by undergoing risky orbits. This whole new daring mission will help scientists to determine how giant gas planets evolve here and elsewhere in the planetary systems. Its scheduled to crash into Saturn’s atmosphere, sending back its new findings which might amaze science – it’s going to fight until its last – well, fuel.
Again, why?
  1. It has spent 13 years studying Saturn and its surroundings, it’s running out of juice. If its not attended, it might crash with anything on its path – which possibly could be Enceladus and Titan that’s said to have a potential habitable environment – or at least, as NASA calls it “prebiotic” environments.
  2. To avoid such disastrous/unfortunate end, NASA chose to dispose the spacecraft assuring that Cassini will not contaminate future studies of the moons.
Its sad but a happy ending. Cassini has discovered so much that it brings us a whole new perspective of our amazing Solar System and this article is not enough to explore its findings. I will discuss more on our two habitable moons in my blog posts later. Watch out for that space!

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