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NASA's Cassini completes final flyby of Saturn's moon Titan


It's a stunning glimpse of earth, as seen through the rings of Saturn.

This weekend marks the beginning of the end for Cassini, as after 13 years of studying Saturn and its moons, the NASA spacecraft will change course, complete one final flyby of the moon Titan, and ultimately plunge to a fiery demise in the atmosphere of the gas giant itself.

By destroying the spacecraft, NASA will ensure that any hitchhiking Earth microbes still alive on Cassini will not contaminate the moons for future study.

On April 21 at 11:08 p.m. PDT (2:08 a.m. EDT on April 22), the spacecraft passed at an altitude of about 608 miles (979 kilometers) above the surface of Saturn's moon, beginning its final set of 22 orbits around the ringed planet.

Cassini transmitted its images and other data to Earth following the encounter.

The flyby marks the mission's final opportunity for up-close observations of the lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbons that spread across Titan's northern polar region. Specifically, a photograph of Earth in between Saturn's rings taken by the strategically placed Cassini spacecraft.


The mission will conclude with a science-rich plunge into Saturn's atmosphere on September 15 this year.

Earl Maize, the Cassini project manager, said that the flyby caused the spacecraft to a ballistic path.

Cassini received a large increase in velocity of approximately 1,925 mph (precisely 860.5 meters per second) with respect to Saturn from the close encounter with Titan.

After buzzing Titan, Cassini coasted onward, reaching the farthest point in its orbital path around Saturn on April 22. After the flyby, Cassini will begin a series of dives between the rings and the planet. The spacecraft will make the next radio contact with Earth on April 27 during which it will send another batch of images and other data.

Cassini-Huygens journey in space gives answers to the scientist and gives an idea of the life on its moons.

Cassini is the most sophisticated space probe ever built.

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