Space exploration is a difficult yet crucial task for mankind. Mankind eager to know about the universe build impressive machines to explore this vast universe. NASA, ISRO, ESA and the other space agencies are trying hard to first explore our solar system.
Solar system comprises of 8 planets namely Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune (In order of increasing distance from Sun) and of them, only Earth is presently habitable. Mars even though is being considered as the best option of all planets to colonise, only further exploration and study will prove this.
In pursuit of space exploration, knowing Solar System is the most important task that lies before us. Almost every planet in Solar System is having/will have an artificial satellite deployed for it. The satellite that is sent to study the planet of rings, Saturn is called Cassini-Huygens and simply called Cassini.
Quick Facts About Cassini
Here are some of the facts that are to be read to know about Cassini
- It is an unmanned spacecraft which is fourth to reach Saturn and first to enter its orbit
- It is developed by teams from 17 countries and its design includes Cassini, Saturn Orbiter and Huygens, lander for Saturn’s moon Titan
- It was launched on October 15, 1997, and it entered into Saturn’s orbit in 2004
- In December, Huygens separated from Cassini and landed on Titan making it first successful landing in the outer solar system
- 19 years, 200 days are elapsed from launch and 12 years, 306 days are elapsed at Saturn
- Cassini is named after Italian-French astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini and Huygens is named after Dutch astronomer, mathematician and physicist Christiaan Huygens.
Objectives of Cassini
- Determine 3D structure and dynamic behaviour of Saturn rings
- Study Saturn’s atmosphere dynamic behaviour
- Characterise Titan’s surface on regional scale
- Composition study of Titan’s surface and geological history
- Study of time variability of Titan’s clouds and hazes
Why Final Dive?
Cassini had a long lifetime outside our planet since its inception and is sending important data to Earth periodically. But the main reason for this flagship spacecraft to reach its final phase is because of the dwindling supply of onboard fuel. This made Cassini-Huygens enter into the grand finale which needs Cassini to study Saturn rings.
Risky manoeuvres between Saturn and its rings are planned taking photos and to collect important data. The satellite will be crashed into Saturn’s atmosphere on September 15, 2017, to avoid crashing on Saturn’s moons in no-fuel condition.
Cassini completed its first dive of the overall 22 dives through Saturn rings. Using a disc-shaped shield to protect itself and driving at 77,000 mph, the satellite sent data to the Earth as soon as it's completed its dive.
Image Source: Futurism
With one of the oldest satellites Cassini-Huygens being a flagship satellite and very successful even in the long run, it must be taken as an inspiration and after observing the design specialities and considerations must lead to the development of more versatile satellites that will play a key role in future space exploration. A heartful goodbye to Cassini-Huygens