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Saying Goodbye To Cassini On Saturn47:59

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The Cassini spacecraft and all it’s taught us about Saturn and its many moons before it burns up.

This Jan. 10, 2012 image made available by NASA shows Saturn and one of its moons, Tethys, as seen from the Cassini spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute via AP)
This Jan. 10, 2012 image made available by NASA shows Saturn and one of its moons, Tethys, as seen from the Cassini spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute via AP)

On Friday morning, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft takes one last turn over Saturn and dives to a fiery destruction, like a meteor burning up in the atmosphere of the ringed planet. It will be a long-planned end to Cassini’s 20-year exploration of Saturn, its rings and its many moons. Sixty-two moons at latest count. Tracking lunar oceans, lakes, geysers and maybe cradles of life. Up next, On Point: Before it goes, what we’ve learned from Cassini. -- Tom Ashbrook

In this hour, we also discuss President Trump's NASA nominee.


Tariq Malik, managing editor of Space.com (@tariqjmalik)

Trina Ray, science planning and sequencing team deputy with the Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn (@trinajpl)

Kimberly Steadman, spacecraft systems engineer for the Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (@kim_steadman)

Tom's Reading List

Time: The Cassini Spacecraft Has Entered Its Final Collision Course with Saturn — "On Monday the probe made its closest encounter with Titan, the gas-giant's largest moon, which Cassini has been exploring since 2004. Informally called "the goodbye kiss" by engineers, the spacecraft flew within 120,000 km of Titan — a distance close enough to change Cassini's trajectory so the probe would hurtle toward Saturn, the BBC reports."

Futurism: This Week, We Will Officially Say Goodbye to Cassini. Here’s What We’ve Learned. — "Cassini made several contributions to our understanding of Saturn and its moons. Its earliest discoveries came with the Hyugens probe landing on Titan in 2005 — the first-ever landing on a moon of Saturn. The findings of the Hyugens probe, and the images taken by Cassini later on, showed just how Earth-like Titan is."

The New York Times: Cassini Flies Toward a Fiery Death on Saturn — "A list of its greatest hits would include movies of the six-sided storm that hugs the planet’s north pole; detailed views of Saturn’s spidery golden rings, woven into warps, braids and knots by the gravity of tiny moonlets; the discovery of plumes that look like snow-making machines shooting from the surface of the moon Enceladus. Not to mention postcards of lakes and seas on Titan."

The following animated video from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratroy explains Cassini's final assignment:

NASA's lab also produced this video detailing the Huygens probe's landing on Saturn's moon, Titan:

Carolyn Porco is head of imaging on the Cassini-Huygens mission. Here she giving a TED Talk in 2007 called "This is Saturn": 

This program aired on September 14, 2017.


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