The Cassini spacecraft launched by NASA has orbited Saturn for nearly 13 years, gathering unprecedented insight on the planet and its many moons. Cassini was launched on October 15, 1997 and arrived at the second largest gas giant of solar system in 2004 and began scientific observations.
Giovanni Domenico Cassini was an Italian mathematician and astronomer born in 1625. He was the first person to notice the division of the rings of Saturn in 1675 and now, over 300 years later, a space probe bearing his name is orbiting the planet .
Cassini’s mission is drawing to an end, as NASA prepares to crash it into the Saturn atmosphere. In a series of 22 dives known as The Grand Finale the space craft was scheduled to make a series of daring orbital dives between Saturn’s upper atmosphere and it’s D rings.
Cassini’s mission will officially terminate on September 15 2017, after a planned plummet through Saturn’s atmosphere and vaporize. And all the while it will transmit data from several instruments until the signal is finally lost:the maneuver will protect Saturn’s moons from any further contamination by Earth microbes and collect invaluable details about the planet’s atmosphere in its last moments.
But in the meantime, Cassini has lots of science to do.