NASA’s Cassini Mission has spent almost a decade in the Universe exploring the planet Saturn. It has sent some astounding pictures of the ringed planet and could help solve the deepest lingering mysteries.
The Cassini Huygens probe was launched from Cape Canaveral on October 15, 1997. It flew past Venus the next year getting close to around 176 miles of Venusian surface. Cassini is the seventh spacecraft to ever enter the asteroid belt. The scientists used its Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) to better understand the region. Joining with the Galileo spacecraft, Cassini too helped give an intuitive insight into the Jovian system. Approaching close to Saturn, Cassini recorded merging of two storms on the planet’s surface, an incredibly rare phenomenon.
The spacecraft has discovered two hitherto unknown moons, Methone and Pallene. This brings Saturn’s known moons to be 60. In the year 2004, it became the first spacecraft to enter Saturn’s orbit. The world awed at the images of the most intrigued moon, Titan. The Huygens Probe which was built and maintained by European Space Agency (ESA) was finally detached. Cassini has set the record for the greatest distance from the Earth that a spacecraft has landed. The descent lasted for 2 hours and 27 minutes. Earth’s scientific community was overwhelmed with the spectacular data that Cassini delivered that showed Titan possessing extraordinarily earth-like meteorology and geology.
A nuclear or mystical apocalypse keeps the world on its toes, making colonization of another planet, no more an inconceivable science fiction. Enceladus is a small, icy moon of Saturn. Cassini observers from NASA announced evidence of liquid water reservoirs feeding the Enceladus plume, soaring up the debate of life beyond earth. There were also testimonies of Earth-like tectonic movement. Presence of ammonia confirmed the presence of some liquid water. Dozens of hydrocarbon lakes were discovered on the surface of Titan. Not just moons, but new rings too were found hanging in the blackness of the space and time.
It’s magnetospheric instrument was used to discover a radiation belt called “Dione Belt“, where some molecular oxygen ions were sniffed. This mission received an extension till 2017. A monstrous tempest was recorded on Saturn that extended up to 9000 miles north-south. The best resolution movie of a unique six-sided jet stream called ‘hexagon’ was recorded on Saturn’s north pole. Never before any spacecraft had an extraterrestrial mountain imagery before Cassini recorded Titan’s mountain ridges. Collection of interstellar dust, view of a methane sea on Titan, and data indicating the presence of hydrogen gas are some other incredible discoveries of Cassini.
The daring and historic mission of crossing 22 loops has been completed after 20 years in space. On September 15, 2017, Cassini will finally take a plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere and get obliterated physically by the temperature and pressure of the planet. The world will watch as the finale unfolds, a reminder of the extent to which we have gone in exploring the solar system. Cassini’s contributions and legacy will remain everlasting, unforgettable, and priceless.
Article by Mausam.