Cassini Spacecraft

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The Cassini mission is one of the most illustrious interstellar missions to have recently completed. It has lasted 20 years and will conclude in September 2017, having largely concentrated on the observation of the planet Saturn. The probe made ground-breaking observations, such as the global ocean, which revealed the presence of hydrothermal activity on Enceladus, the ice earth. This was accomplished by photographing the Imaging Science Subsystem during flybys. The final task will include riding next to the rings as it slams into the earth, destroying it completely. The Cassini mission is coming to an end on the month of September 2017 after serving over 20 years giving us a snippet view into the planet Saturn. The mission cooperation between the European Space Agency (ESA) and National Aeronautical and Space Agency has been successfully in collecting invaluable information of the planet that it was set out to investigate (Vandermey, Heventhaland Ray 3964). The following is discussion on the final plans of the spacecraft as it nears the end of its mission while also discussing the discoveries it has helped achieved during the time.

The Final Mission

As the mission comes to an end the probe is scheduled for orbits through the inner most rings that are 1500 miles above the planet sampling the atmosphere above the planet. The probe will position its ion and neutral mass spectrometer to enhance peak sampling while transmitting the data back to the earth. This will be followed by close flyby near Saturn’s largest moon the Titan (Edgington and Spilker 472). It is expected that due to the gravitational perturbations exerted by the moon the probe will slow down and change its course in preparations for the descent towards Saturn’s atmosphere.

Figure 1. Cassini view of Titan.

The probe is scheduled to take its last picture on September 14 where it will send us the last look of Titan and Enceladus. It will also capture the hexagon shaped vortex at Saturn’s the North Pole, which develops into storms 5 times bigger than what is experienced on the Earth (Manor-Chapman, et al 10). Throughout all these, the probe will turn its antenna towards the earth to transmit all the data till the end of its mission whilst using its thruster’s fire at maximum capacity to maintain directional stability. Its final hours shall also be necessary for the capturing of temperature separation and the spectacular auroras. This will involve also sampling the outer layer of Saturn’s atmosphere, which mainly comprises of ammonia methane and hydrogen.

The mission is coming to an end due to the reducing power of the probe power generators. This has reduced its capability for maneuvering in the outer space. This poses a risk of the probe colliding with one of the moons of the planet (Edgington and Spilker, 473). The mission command, therefore, decided to intentionally crash the probe into the surface of Saturn. The radioactive plutonium would also have an adverse impact on these primordial environments.


The Cassini mission comes to a successful end having achieved several strides in the study of planet Saturn. It has had new several discoveries that have revealed the possibility of the existence of life on Saturn’s moons. On its last mission the probe will have flybys past titan as it seeks to pass between the innermost rings and planet Saturn. This will be necessary for sampling the inner atmosphere of the giant planet. The probe’s thruster will be fired to capacity to during the plunge towards Saturn to maintain directional stability as it transmits its last images and data. The probe will then plunge into the planet destroying it completely and safely as it burns like a meteor.

Works Cited

Edgington, Scott G., and Linda J. Spilker. “Cassini's Grand Finale.” Nature Geoscience, vol. 9, issue 7, 2016, pp. 472-473.

Manor-Chapman, Emily, Kari Magee, Shawn Brooks, Scott Edgington, William Heventhal, and Erick Sturm. Skirting Saturn's Rings and Skimming its Cloud Tops: Planning Cassini's End of Mission. American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 2014.

Vandermey, Nancy, William Heventhal, and Trina Ray. “The Cassini grand finale mission: Planning for a new mission environment.” 2017 IEEE Aerospace Conference, pp. 3958-3971.

December 08, 2022



Astronomy Space

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Study Planet Astronauts

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