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RIP Cassini after 13 years it will plunge into Saturn on Sept 15

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09/14/2017 11:29 AM
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RIP Cassini after 13 years it will plunge into Saturn on Sept 15
NASA's Cassini spacecraft is on final approach to Saturn, following confirmation by mission navigators that it is on course to dive into the planetís atmosphere on Friday, Sept. 15.

Cassini is ending its 13-year tour of the Saturn system with an intentional plunge into the planet to ensure Saturn's moons Ė in particular Enceladus, with its subsurface ocean and signs of hydrothermal activity Ė remain pristine for future exploration. The spacecraft's fateful dive is the final beat in the mission's Grand Finale, 22 weekly dives, which began in late April, through the gap between Saturn and its rings. No spacecraft has ever ventured so close to the planet before.

The missionís final calculations predict loss of contact with the Cassini spacecraft will take place on Sept. 15 at 7:55 a.m. EDT (4:55 a.m. PDT). Cassini will enter Saturn's atmosphere approximately one minute earlier, at an altitude of about 1,190 miles (1,915 kilometers) above the planet's estimated cloud tops (the altitude where the air pressure is 1-bar, equivalent to sea level on Earth). During its dive into the atmosphere, the spacecraft's speed will be approximately 70,000 miles (113,000 kilometers) per hour. The final plunge will take place on the day side of Saturn, near local noon, with the spacecraft entering the atmosphere around 10 degrees north latitude.

[link to www.nasa.gov (secure)]