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NASA's Cassini Spacecraft to Take Slingshot Dive Inside Saturn's Rings

25 April 2017, 01:02 | Gerardo Harmon

NASA's Cassini Spacecraft to Take Slingshot Dive Inside Saturn's Rings

NASA's Cassini Spacecraft to Take Slingshot Dive Inside Saturn's Rings

NASA Cassini spacecraft is about to embark on the most crucial part of its mission, the grand finale "death dive" where it will plunge to its demise, but not before beaming to Earth some incredible photographs of our home planet taken from space. In a close up, you can make out the Moon alongside Earth. The Cassini spacecraft orbits Saturn, studying the planet and its moons.

Cassini, which began its journey over two decades ago, facilitated the publication of more than 3,000 scientific papers with the data it collected and is responsible for several major discoveries, including liquid methane seas on Titan and evidence of hydrothermal activity on Enceladus.

The Cassini Mission is a collaborative effort between NASA, the European Space Agency, and Italy's Space Agency.

This made Cassini's grand finale death dive more special since images like this is considered rare during the entirety of its mission.

Cassini also will study Saturn's atmosphere and take measurements to determine the size of the planet's rocky core. Program manager Earl Maize told the website that he has "no doubt" that Titan's gravity will help Cassini shift into the correct final orbit, but that his team is unsure what lies in the gap between Saturn and its rings.

Cassini received a large increase in velocity of approximately 1,925 mph (precisely 860.5 meters per second) with respect to Saturn from the close encounter with Titan.

Before the finale, Cassini managed to take some interesting images including an image of Earth from space.

Cassini's fuel is running out, and therefore, the orbiter's work at the ringed planet is nearly done.

Cassini captured this view on April 12, 2017, at 10:41 p.m. PDT (1:41 a.m. EDT on April 13).

Technically, Cassini began its Grand Finale orbits at this time, but since the excitement of the finale begins in earnest on April 26th with the first ultra-close dive past Saturn, the mission is celebrating the latter milestone as the formal beginning of the finale.

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