NASA Prepares to Crash Cassini Probe Into Saturn for Mission’s ‘Grand Finale’
NASA’s veteran Cassini mission will officially kick off its farewell tour of the Saturn system on April 22 with a final close encounter of the ringed planet’s largest moon, Titan. Five months later, on Sept. 15, Cassini will spectacularly burn up in Saturn’s crushing atmosphere.
But before that happens, Cassini will dive through a 1,200-mile (1,930 kilometers) gap between the planet and its innermost ring to carry out science that is only possible now that the mission is running out of fuel.
The “Grand Finale” will begin when Titan’s gravity hurls the spacecraft close to Saturn’s atmosphere, ending the probe’s series of ring-grazing orbits and causing Cassini to dive through a gap in the rings.