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September 15, 2017

Rest in Peace, Cassini

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 9:13 am

cassini_black

From the NASA news release 17-079 on Friday, September 15, 2017:

“A thrilling epoch in the exploration of our solar system came to a close today, as NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made a fateful plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn, ending its 13-year tour of the ringed planet.

Telemetry received during the plunge indicates that, as expected, Cassini entered Saturn’s atmosphere with its thrusters firing to maintain stability, as it sent back a unique final set of science observations. Loss of contact with the Cassini spacecraft occurred at 7:55 a.m. EDT (4:55 a.m. PDT), with the signal received by NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna complex in Canberra, Australia.”

During my assignment to the Los Angeles Field Office, I had the opportunity to visit NASA JPL on several occasions, meet some of the people there, and see projects in various phases of final assembly.  The most memorable one for me was being able to watch some of the final clean room assembly of the Cassini spacecraft.

There is no doubt that there were very few dry eyes in the NASA JPL control room when NASA’s Cassini program manager Earl Maize hugged spacecraft operations team manager (Cassini mission at Saturn) Julie Webster after he announced that Cassini’s signal had been lost and in another 45 seconds, Cassini would be intentionally destroyed in its final plunge to Saturn.

For students, please take time to look at NASA’s information about the entire Cassini project.  It is available online in The Grand Finale Toolkit.

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