How To Watch the End of NASA’s Cassini Mission
All good things must come to an end. And while NASA's now 40 year Voyager mission is still plugging along beyond the furthest reaches of our solar system, still sending and receiving messages, another probe has sent its last transmission from the rings of Saturn.
Launched in 1997, the Cassini space probe was sent to the sixth rock from the sun to study its composition, and gather data on its over 60 moons, including Titan which is larger than both Mars and Pluto. After entering Saturn's orbit after a five year journey through the solar system, we received some amazing photos and information.
Titan, and its brother moon Enceladus, both named after figures in Greek mythology, were found to have oceans on their surface, capable of supporting life. These moons were important in the research of potential exoplanets.
So why, after all this time in space and studying Saturn, its rings and its moons, and after this treasure trove of data and information, is NASA calling an end to the Cassini mission? To put it simply, the craft is out of gas. It wasn't going to last forever, it couldn't. So they've managed to guide the craft into a decaying orbit around Saturn where it will fall toward the surface, breaking up in the atmosphere in a glorious explosion. And you can watch. Kind of.
We don't have telescopes powerful enough to document it in great detail, however they've been able to construct an animated representation of what it will look like. Funny enough, they're able to construct the animation based on data from Cassini. It's kind of like writing your own obituary. They will be able to get streaming data and video back from the craft right up until the time of destruction. So we'll have point-of-view shots, and animations of what it would like from alternate perspectives. And the whole thing will be streamed on NASA's YouTube Channel live starting at 6am Friday morning, September 15th. We've embedded it below, but if that stream gets interrupted, you can watch it on their uStream channel here.