By WILLIAM HARWOOD
survived its second pass between Saturn and its innermost rings earlier this week, giving scientists increasing confidence the region between the rings and the cloud tops is clear of large particles that might represent a threat to the spacecraft.
Virtually out of propellant, Cassini is wrapping up its extended 13-yearby making 22 dives between the gas giant and its vast ring system, before crashing into the planet in September in a long-planned kamikaze-like maneuver to close out a remarkably successful flight.
On April 26, Cassini made the first of 22 planned ring-plane crossings, using its large dish antenna as a shield in case scientists had underestimated the amount of ring material that might be present. Crossing the plane at more than 76,000 mph, even relatively small particles could cause serious damage.
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