Cassini spacecraft's 'Grand Finale' takes off with a Google Doodle

The Cassini spacecraft has just passed over Titan and thanks to the moon's gravity has changed its path in what would be its final manoeuvre.


The Cassini spacecraft has finally entered the last leg of its journey through the endless bounds of space. The spacecraft which is now 20 years old, had been orbiting Saturn's Moon Titan and has now entered its science rich final act called the 'Grand Finale'. Cassini will dive between Saturn and its innermost rings for the final few orbits, before crashing into the gas giant.

Today's Google Doodle bids goodbye to Cassini and shows the spacecraft fly by Saturn snapping photos of the planet. On a humourous note, after Cassini finishes its flyby, the spacecraft starts clicking selfies!

 Cassini spacecrafts Grand Finale takes off with a Google Doodle

The Cassini spacecraft has just bid farewell to Titan and thanks to the moon's gravity has changed its path. The change in path means that instead of the usual orbit which was supposed to see it pass by just outside Saturn's main rings, known as the ring grazing orbits, will now see Cassini do a series of 22 dives between the main rings and the planet on 26 April.

An unprocessed image taken during the final maneuver of Cassini around Titan. Image: Nasa.

An unprocessed image taken during the final maneuver of Cassini around Titan. Image: Nasa.

Sadly, despite the extended service, this last mission will see Cassini take a science-rich plunge into Saturn's atmosphere on 15 September. In short, that plunge into Saturn's atmosphere will burn the spacecraft into a meteor, eventually becoming a part of the planet itself.

Image: Nasa

Image: Nasa

Cassini's plunge is supposed to deliver plenty of important details as Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory describes in the bullet points below:

  • The spacecraft will make detailed maps of Saturn's gravity and magnetic fields, revealing how the planet is arranged internally, and possibly helping to solve the irksome mystery of just how fast Saturn is rotating.
  • The final dives will vastly improve our knowledge of how much material is in the rings, bringing us closer to understanding their origins.
  • Cassini's particle detectors will sample icy ring particles being funneled into the atmosphere by Saturn's magnetic field.
  • Its cameras will take amazing, ultra-close images of Saturn's rings and clouds.
Cassini Grand Finale by the numbers. Image: Nasa JPL

Cassini Grand Finale by the numbers. Image: Nasa JPL

Cassini has spent 13 years in orbit around Saturn after a 7 year journey from Earth. Nasa explains that spacecraft is running low on rocket fuel, which is used for adjusting its course. "If left unchecked, this situation would eventually prevent mission operators from controlling the course of the spacecraft." said Nasa in blog.

Cassini pictured the earth from between the rings of saturn

Cassini pictured the earth from between the rings of saturn

"In order to avoid the unlikely possibility of Cassini someday colliding with one of these moons, NASA has chosen to safely dispose of the spacecraft in the atmosphere of Saturn. This will ensure that Cassini cannot contaminate any future studies of habitability and potential life on those moons."


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