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Cassini Bids Farewell to Saturn, Completes Last Flyby to Titan

Apr 26, 2017 02:38 PM EDT
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NASA's Cassini mission to explore Saturn and its rings and moons is almost finished. But not before Cassini bids farewell to Saturn's moon Titan.

Cassini completed its last flyby to the moon Titan -- one of the most intriguing moons in the Solar System. Studies suggest that Titan may contain the right chemistry to support life. Cassini's last flyby will supply scientists another batch of data that will help them further understand the moon.

Cassini performed its flyby, with its closest approach to Titan last April 22. The spacecraft was 608 miles (979 kilometers) away from the moon, according to a report. The flyby is one of the scheduled tasks before the spacecraft initiate its grand finale death dives and later plunges to its death.

"Cassini's up-close exploration of Titan is now behind us, but the rich volume of data the spacecraft has collected will fuel scientific study for decades to come," Linda Spilker, Cassini's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement.

The flyby to Titan marks the start of a series of dangerous dives into unexplored crevices in between Saturn's rings. Some of the areas on the list were previously avoided by the Cassini spacecraft due to the risks pose to the spacecraft.

After Cassini's farewell flyby to Titan, it will perform 22 dives to places that no man-made spacecraft has been before. These dives are expected to provide scientists with never-before-seen images and data. Cassini is performing its grand finale death dives and farewell flyby's because it is scheduled to plunge to its death on Sept. 15.

According to NASA, the spacecraft had already transmitted images and other data to Earth after the farewell flyby to Titan. It includes a new set of images of the hydrocarbon seas and lakes on the surface of Saturn's moon.

The north polar region was formerly observed by Cassini's cameras, but this time, it was captured using a radar. It may lead to the identification of depths and composition of lakes.


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