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Solar System: Things to Know This Week

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

Like sailors of old, the Cassini mission team fondly thinks of the spacecraft as “she.” 

On April 22, she begins her Grand Finale, a spectacular end game—22 daring dives between the planet’s atmosphere and innermost rings. Here are 10 things to know about her Grand Finale.

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

1. She’s Broadcasting Live This Week

On Tuesday, April 4 at

3 p.m. EDT

 (noon PDT), At Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Cassini team host a news briefing to discuss the mission’s Grand Finale.

Tune in Tuesday: youtube.com/nasajpl/live

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

2. She’s Powered in Part By … Titan

Cassini left Earth with less than 1/30th of the propellant needed to power all her adventures at Saturn. The navigation team used the gravity of Saturn’s giant moon Titan to change course and extend the spacecraft’s exploration of Saturn. Titan also provides the gravity assist to push Cassini into its final orbits.

More on Cassini’s navigation: saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/spacecraft/navigation/

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

3. She’s a Robot

Cassini is an orbiter that was named for 18th century astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini. She was designed to be captured by Saturn’s gravity and then explore it in detail with a suite of 12 powerful science instruments.

More on the Spacecraft: saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/spacecraft/cassini-orbiter/

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

4. She Brought a Friend to Saturn

Cassini carried the European Space Agency’s Huygens Probe, which in 2005 descended through Titan’s thick, perpetual clouds and made the most distant landing to date in our solar system.

More on Huygens: saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/spacecraft/huygens-probe/

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

5. She’s a Great Photographer

Your mobile phone likely captures dozens of megapixels in images. Cassini, using 1990s technology closer to one megapixel cameras, has returned some of the most stunning images in the history of solar system exploration.

Cassini Hall of Fame Images: go.nasa.gov/2oec6H2
More on Cassini’s Cameras: saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/imaging-science-subsystem/

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

6. She’s an Inspiration

Those great images have inspired artist’s and amateur image processors to create truly fantastic imagery inspired by the beauty of Saturn. Feeling inspired? There’s still time to share your Cassini-inspired art with us.

Cassini Inspires Campaign: saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/cassiniinspires/

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

7. She’s Got a Long History

Two decades is a long time to live in the harsh environment of outer space (respect to the fast-approaching 40-year-old twin Voyager spacecraft). Launched in 1997, Cassini logged a lot of milestones over the years.

Explore the Cassini Timeline: saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/the-journey/timeline/

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

8. She Keeps a Diary

And, you can read it. Week after week going back to 1997, Cassini’s adventures, discoveries and status have been chronicled in the mission’s weekly significant events report.

Read It: https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/?topic=121

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

9. She’s Got a Fancy New App

Cassini was the prototype for NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System 3-D visualization software, so it’s fitting the latest Cassini module in the free, downloadable software is the most detailed, elaborate visualization of any mission to date.

Fly the Mission – Start to Finish: http://eyes.nasa.gov/cassini

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

10. She’s Going Out in a Blaze of Glory

In addition to all the new information from 22 orbits in unexplored space, Cassini’s engineers reprogrammed the spacecraft to send back details about Saturn’s atmosphere to the very last second before the giant planet swallows her up on Sept. 15, 2017.

More on the Grand Finale: saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/grandfinale

Discover more lists of 10 things to know about our solar system HERE.

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