US spacecraft to take slingshot dive inside Saturn's rings

US spacecraft to take slingshot dive inside Saturn's rings

US spacecraft to take slingshot dive inside Saturn's rings

Its Huygens probe later touched down on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, on January 14, 2005.

It will ultimately end in spectacular fashion as Cassini will break apart and melt, burning up like a meteor, and become part of the planet it left Earth to explore.

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The flyby will also seal Cassini's fate. New ocean world discoveries from Cassini and Hubble will help inform future exploration and the broader search for life beyond Earth. On Enceladus Cassini has discovered volcanoes spewing large jets of ice particles that feed the E ring.

Cassini's radar will once again scan their depths and look for what have become known as "magic islands" - locations where nitrogen gas bubbles up from below to produce a transient bumpiness on the lakes' surfaces. We'll be able to study the hexagon at Saturn's north pole in greater detail than ever before. The view looks toward the backlit side of the rings as sun was blocked by the disk of Saturn. "Cassini sets a high bar for missions yet to come". The moon has yielded so many discoveries. Without intervention, this could result in the mission operators losing control of the course of the spacecraft.

A new image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows planet Earth as a point of light between the icy rings of Saturn. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

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On April 22, Cassini's journey towards the 1,200-mile-wide gap between Saturn's atmosphere and its rings will start.

This graphic shows Cassini's flight path during the final two phases of its mission.

While the NASA scientists are slightly sad about destroying their beloved spacecraft, its death will provide more research material to scientists instead of dying into ignorance in the space.

Even as it plunges into Saturn's atmosphere, Cassini will be sending information about the end of its life until it can't.

Cassini will also map the planet's gravity and magnetic fields, detailing how Saturn is arranged on the inside, hopefully providing insights into how fast the interior is rotating.

"We could put it into a very long orbit far from Saturn but the science return from that would be nowhere near as good as what we're about to do", he told BBC News.

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