“On October 15, 1997, a seven-year journey to the ringed planet Saturn began with the liftoff of a Titan IVB/Centaur carrying the Cassini orbiter and its attached Huygens probe. This spectacular streak shot was taken from Hangar AF on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, with a solid rocket booster retrieval ship in the foreground. Launch occurred at 4:43 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 40. After a nearly 2.2-billion mile journey, the spacecraft arrived in the Saturn system on June 30, 2004.”
“After almost 20 years in space, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft begins the final chapter of its remarkable story of exploration: its Grand Finale. Between April and September 2017, Cassini will undertake a daring set of orbits that is, in many ways, like a whole new mission. Following a final close flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan, Cassini will leap over the planet’s icy rings and begin a series of 22 weekly dives between the planet and the rings.
No other mission has ever explored this unique region. What we learn from these final orbits will help to improve our understanding of how giant planets – and planetary systems everywhere – form and evolve.
On the final orbit, Cassini will ...