Cassini’s last flight over Titan before the big dive


The Cassini probe will fly over this last moon of Saturn and then begin the final phase of its mission which will end with a dive straight on the planet.

127 times! During its long mission that began in 2004, the Cassini probe will have flown over this large moon of Saturn 126 times. Saturday, April 22, 2017 in the morning she will do it for the 127th and last time. This final flight will be very close as the probe will only be 979 kilometers (608 miles) from the surface. Scientists will have a new opportunity to scrutinize the mysterious „magic islands „, these ephemeral shining brightnesses that appear and disappear near the poles of the star and the many amazing features that lie beneath the foggy layer that surrounds Titan.

Start of maneuvers „Grand Finale“

But if Cassini has approached Titan it is not only to bid farewell to her: the probe will use the gravity of the moon to change her orbit. A maneuver that will take it from the 26th of April to plunge between Saturn and ring D, the most internal of all.

This is an area of ​​only 2,500 kilometers wide. Cassini will slip into twenty-two orbits and during these operations, which constitute the „Grand Finale“ phase of the mission, the probe will take the closest views of the planet to the rings. His other instruments will also map the magnetic and gravimetric fields of Saturn with unprecedented accuracy.

During its first passage, the probe will use its large antenna as a shield: the zone is supposed to be „clean“, without floating particles “ but we remain cautious and will first determine if it is possible to expose our scientific instruments Of the next passages, „explains Earl Maize, head of the Cassini project at the jet propulsion laboratory.