Farewell, Cassini: Saturn Spacecraft’s Crash Is Top Spaceflight Story of 2017

By Nola Taylor Redd

After 13 years in the Saturn system, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft had become an icon.

The probe’s data and imagery reshaped scientists’ understanding of the ringed planet and its 60-plus moons, and brought Saturn’s beauty and mystery to the masses all over the world.

All of that storied work came to an end on Sept. 15, 2017, when Cassini’s handlers sent the craft hurtling into Saturn in an intentional death dive. This plunge wrung the most possible science from the mission while keeping any potentially habitable environments safe from contamination, NASA officials said.

“Not only did we do science here at the very end, but we protected the science to be done in the future,” Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C., said the day after Cassini’s plunge.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. @OP – All of that storied work came to an end on Sept. 15, 2017, when Cassini’s handlers sent the craft hurtling into Saturn in an intentional death dive. This plunge wrung the most possible science from the mission while keeping any potentially habitable environments safe from contamination, NASA officials said.

    That is not correct! As it says later on the OP link (see below) , the analysis will continue to provide new information for years to come!

    @OP – link – Cassini’s legacy

    Cassini may be gone, but the probe’s impact will be felt for a long time to come. For starters, scientists will be sifting through its data sets for years.

    “There’s so much left, so much incredible science left,” Spilker said.

    “There’s lots of work for everyone,” Maize agreed. “The science data, to the extent that it can be funded by research grants, will continue for decades.”

  2. So as planetary scientists and astronomers analyse Cassini’s legacy, another space project (Hubble), continues to provide information from vastly more distant objects!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42692843

    The Hubble telescope has bagged an unprecedented close-up view of one of the Universe’s oldest known galaxies.

    Astronomers were lucky when the orbiting observatory captured the image of a galaxy that existed just 500 million years after the Big Bang.

    The image was stretched and amplified by the natural phenomenon of gravitational lensing, unlocking unprecedented detail.

    Such objects usually appear as tiny red spots to powerful telescopes.

    Distance and age are linked in astronomy; because of the time taken for light to traverse the vast expanse in-between, we see the galaxy as it was more than 13 billion years ago.

    The detail evident in the image will help scientists to test theories of galaxy evolution.

    “Pretty much every galaxy at that distance is an unresolved dot… it’s kind of a matter of luck to get a galaxy that’s lensed in just the right way to stretch it out and get that much detail – it’s a pretty nice find,” the study’s lead author Brett Salmon told BBC News.

    Dr Salmon, from the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, added: “By analysing the effects of gravitational lensing on the image of this galaxy, we can determine its actual size and shape.”

    The findings were presented at the 231st American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington DC.

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