NASA’s Cassini spacecraft no longer exists, but its legacy will not be forgotten for a long time. The ship intentionally plunged into the dense atmosphere of the ring planet on September 15, 2017, completing a 13-year study of the magnificent system of Saturn.
The data obtained by Cassini has already become revolutionary for understanding the nature of the gas giant, its rings and numerous satellites. The archives still contain a large amount of raw information, so scientists are looking forward to future discoveries.
On September 15, 2017, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft performed a daring dive into Saturn to complete the nearly 20-year mission to study the ring planet and its moons
Some of the recently analyzed data will be released in early October. A series of articles is also being prepared. But the agency believes that in the coming years they will not be able to return to the planet, so you need to be content with all the information received.
The Cassini-Huygens mission ($ 3.9 billion worth) is a joint operation of NASA, ESA and the Italian Space Agency. It started in October 1997 and was in orbit on Saturn on the night of June 30, 2004. At Christmas, the Huygens landing gear set off toward Titan and, after 3 weeks, landed on the surface, making the first and only soft landing in the outer solar system. Huygens stopped communicating after 90 minutes of landing, but the Cassini orbiter continued to approach the system for years. He managed to collect a lot of valuable information about the planet, rings and moons, some of which turned out to be amazing!
For example, in 2005, the device recorded geysers on the southern polar region of the icy satellite Enceladus. Further reviews showed that the geyser is filled with water and organic chemicals (carbon-containing building blocks of life). We now know that the material is released from the gigantic ocean of saline liquid water.
Ocean Harbor Enceladus in Cassini Overview
In addition, the mission was able to carefully examine the Titan, closed thick and foggy atmosphere. Radar observations penetrated the haze, demonstrating river systems, lakes and seas from liquid hydrocarbons. The air of a large moon is filled with potential chemical energy, so the lakes and seas are capable of supporting vital activity. It was the potential of having a life that decided how exactly Cassini’s mission would end. It was impossible to allow the device to fall on the satellites and pollute the surface with terrestrial microbes. Therefore, the ship was sent to Saturn.
The mission is important because it has opened up living conditions for us on Titan and Enceladus, which can become future targets for the search for life or even the creation of colonies. But public propaganda is also important here. Magnificent pictures of Saturn with clouds, rings and satellites made millions of people interested in space exploration. NASA continues to produce images, although there have been no signals from the ship for a year, and various actions have been organized during the mission. Do not forget the hype around the Great Finale of Cassini, when the entire planet watched the completion of the program and the death of the apparatus. But most of the information received remains undeciphered, which means the scientific world still has time to face the new discoveries about Saturn. While at NASA there are no plans for future missions to the gas giant. But things can change. The Dragonfly project is able to win the NASA competition and go to study Titan as part of the New Frontier project. The second finalist is CAESAR, which must obtain a comet pattern. The agency will announce the choice in the summer and then one of the two projects will be able to start in the mid-2020s.