Cassini phones home after dive between Saturn and rings

On Wednesday April 26, the Cassini spacecraft did something extraordinary: It slipped through the gap between Saturn and its rings, becoming the first spacecraft ever to explore this region.

This unprocessed image acquired by the Cassini spacecraft is the closest view ever of the giant hurricane that swirls around Saturn's north pole.

While mission managers were confident Cassini would pass through the gap successfully, they took extra precautions with this first dive, as the region had never been explored.

As Cassini moves nearer to the giant gaseous ringed planet over the next few months, the spacecraft will be able to take unprecedented close-up images.

All went according to the plan, Maize said, adding that after its dive, the craft that's now been in space for almost 20 years "has come out the other side in excellent shape".

Signals received by the Deep Space Network's Goldstone radio antenna in California confirmed that the bus-sized spacecraft survived its closest-ever encounter with the ringed planet. "Based on our models we expect this gap to be free of particles that would be big enough to do damage to our spacecraft", NASA project manager Earl Maize said.

Cassini captured the images over the past 24 hours - but it couldn't send them back to Earth until early Thursday, because the craft was using its 13-feet-wide antenna as a deflector shield to protect it from ice and rock particles.

More than 100 members of the Cassini team and their families were assembled in JPL's Von Karman Auditorium to await the data and received it exultantly when it arrived from more than 750 million miles away.




Saturn's atmosphere is relatively cool and mostly made of hydrogen, and the pressure at Saturn's cloud tops is about the same as Earth's pressure at sea level, NASA said.

NASA's Cassini orbiter zoomed inside Saturn's rings overnight for the first time in its 20-year-long flight - and lived to tell about it.

But that, of course, means it can not also then talk to Earth at the same time.

Another raw image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft reveals streaks and other features in Saturn's atmosphere, caught during the spacecraft's plunge between the planet and its rings' inner edge. It may be nearing its end, but the Cassini spacecraft isn't done yet.

"While it's always sad when a mission comes to an end, Cassini's finale plunge is a truly spectacular end for one of the most scientifically rich voyages yet undertaken in our solar system".

"In the grandest tradition of exploration, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has once again blazed a trail, showing us new wonders and demonstrating where our curiosity can take us if we dare", Jim Green, NASA's director of planetary science, said in the agency's post-crossing statement. The death dive that has been engineered to ensure that any Earth microbes on the spacecraft do not contaminate the Saturn system, especially its moons Enceladus and Titan that have been found to have the potential to support life.

On July 1, 2004, seven years after it was first launched, the Cassini-Huygens reached its final destination of Saturn where it has remained orbiting the planet to this day.

Following its last close flyby of the large moon Titan on April 21, Cassini began what mission planners are calling its "Grand Finale".

Related news:

Hot News

YouTuber manages to test 3D virtual reality video on Nintendo Switch
Apr 28, 2017 - 01:48
All of the Switch sales hinge on whether Nintendo can keep the Switch in stock at retail stores, which it's struggle to do. Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto has explained in a new interview the company hopes its Nintendo NX console is a bigger hit.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top More people are driving drugged than driving drunk
Apr 28, 2017 - 01:40
Roadside screenings for drugs that use saliva are being tested, and tests that use breath are being developed, Hedlund said. For the first time, statistics show that drivers killed in crashes are more likely to be on drugs then drunk.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Turkish party to challenge election decision
Apr 28, 2017 - 01:38
The new system outlined under the constitutional changes will take full effect at the next election, slated for November 2019. A failed coup a year ago allowed him to turn up the heat on opposition voices in the run-up to Sunday's vote.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Tornado warning issued for several Arkansas counties
Apr 28, 2017 - 01:31
More sunshine Friday into Saturday and Sunday will send temperatures soaring to as high as 90ยบ in some areas. Windy conditions are expected to continue through the week ahead of a cold front on Friday and Saturday.

Ronaldo landmark as Madrid wins 2-1, ends Bayern record run
Apr 27, 2017 - 03:04
The last time Real failed to score was last April, in a 0-0 draw at Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals. Meanwhile, Bayern forward Thomas Muller said they were pleased in the end to come away with a one-goal deficit.

Turkey: 1000 detained over suspected links to Gulen
Apr 27, 2017 - 03:01
Turkey has detained over 1,000 suspects in a massive new crackdown on alleged supporters of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Fitbit data used as evidence in Ellington murder case
Apr 27, 2017 - 02:58
Officials in CT say the information from Connie Dabate's wearable contradicts the version of events given by her husband Richard. However, time stamps on the fitness device, coupled with CCTV footage, indicate his wife had been at a local gym until 9.18 am.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top US may need to strengthen defenses against North Korea threat: Admiral
Apr 27, 2017 - 02:56
In light of that, he said, "I must assume that the Kim Jong Un's nuclear claims are true, I know his aspirations certainly are". At a House Armed Services Committee, Harris rejected reports that the Carl Vinson group is vulnerable to North Korean attacks.

Farmer Community reacts to Trump's Executive Order for Agriculture
Apr 27, 2017 - 02:54
Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New York State was the only member of the Senate Agriculture Committee to vote against him. USDA officials need to keep farmers at top of mind as they go about daily business, Perdue said.

Derek Jeter And Jeb Bush Reportedly Win Auction For Miami Marlins
Apr 26, 2017 - 09:01
But the Marlins have failed to make the postseason since then, and the Loria era has marked by frequent teardowns and rebuilds. People representing Jeter and Bush did not return a call for comment, nor did a spokesperson for the Miami Marlins .

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Obama criticised for '$400000 Wall Street speech'
Apr 26, 2017 - 09:01
He condemned high rewards paid to bank officials, and said Wall Street shared fault for the 2008 monetary emergency. In 2009, he told CBS: "I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street".

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Official estimate could upend Trump tax plan
Apr 26, 2017 - 09:00
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said Trump's tax plan will pay for itself by stimulating economic growth. The House Republican plan, championed by Ryan and Brady, proposed a 20 percent corporate tax rate.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Entire US Senate to go to White House for North Korea briefing
Apr 26, 2017 - 09:00
Earnest expressed his gratitude at having been part of a cohesive and supportive team in the Obama administration. While he has discussed Trump's time in office, he has mostly steered clear of critiquing his successor.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Wisconsin dairy farms face closure due to Canadian policies
Apr 26, 2017 - 08:59
That balance has been upended by the surge of milk-protein imports, a glut of skim milk and underinvestment in dairy processing. And yet, all three major political parties (and virtually every MP) have vowed to support the system.

Jurassic World 2 Will Head Underwater
Apr 26, 2017 - 08:56
The world has changed a lot since Ian Malcolm went to Jurassic Park and we need his point of view now more than ever. Goldblum will be joining Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard in the now filming yet-to-be-officially-titled sequel.