Cassini Probe Beams Back First Images of Saturn
Ashley Allen / 6 years ago
NASA’s Cassini probe has survived its deep dive between the planet Saturn and its famous rings to beam back the first unprocessed images of the gas giant’s atmosphere (above). Cassini entered a space 1,900 miles above the planet’s surface and 200 miles below its rings, making it the first man-made object to explore the region.
“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, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said.
We did it! Cassini is in contact with Earth and sending back data after a successful dive through the gap between Saturn and its rings. pic.twitter.com/cej1yO7T6a
— NASA Solar System (@NASASolarSystem) April 27, 2017
In order to protect the probe from a potential battering from the rocky debris that makes up Saturn’s rings, NASA used its antenna dish as a shield while the probe manoeuvred into position. That, however, meant that Cassini was unable to transmit back to Earth, so NASA was unsure that it had survived the journey until it suddenly started transmitting again.
“No spacecraft has ever been this close to Saturn before,” Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said. “We could only rely on predictions, based on our experience with Saturn’s other rings, of what we thought this gap between the rings and Saturn would be like. I am delighted to report that Cassini shot through the gap just as we planned and has come out the other side in excellent shape.”
Cassini will make another 21 dives over the next few months before it enters Saturn’s atmosphere on 15th September.