NASA’s Cassini spacecraft (circled around Saturn since 2004) opens a new and final chapter of its amazing history. On Wednesday, April 26, the unit will make its first dive in the upcoming series of several dives in a 2400-kilometer-wide gap between Saturn and its rings as part of a mission phase known as the grand finale.
While in orbit around Saturn, Cassini helped to make a number of important discoveries, including a subsurface ocean with signs of hydrothermal activity on the ice satellite of the Enceladus planet and a sea of liquid methane on the surface of another, the largest satellite of Saturn Titan.
However, the beginning of this final phase of the Cassini mission is in fact in many ways like a completely new mission. Using the experience gained over many years of spacecraft in orbit around Saturn, Cassini mission engineers have compiled a flight plan that will help maximize the amount of scientific information collected when the probe sinks into the dense atmosphere of Saturn on September 15th.
The main planned scientific results expected from this final stage of the Cassini mission are: new information about the inner structure of Saturn, the origin of its rings; Obtaining the first samples of the Saturnian atmosphere and particles that make up the main rings of the planet; Obtaining images of clouds of Saturn and its inner rings from an unprecedented close distance. Currently, the scientific team of the probe conducts the latest checks of the list of commands, according to which the apparatus will carry out scientific operations, on the eve of the grand finale phase of the mission. Loading this list of commands into the on-board computer memory of the device is scheduled for Tuesday, April 11.