Cassini's final mission ends on 15th September
September 14, 2017 7:50 AM   Subscribe

For 13 years, the orbiter has been sending back to Earth images of its extraordinary discoveries at Saturn. It has documented the possible birth of a moon, tasted an extra-terrestrial ocean and watched as a giant storm encircled the entire planet.
posted by lungtaworld (44 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Carl Sagan would be so proud.
posted by Freedomboy at 8:11 AM on September 14 [5 favorites]


Ave atque vale.


posted by Halloween Jack at 8:23 AM on September 14 [1 favorite]


If you're looking for a good Twitter feed to follow: Emily Lakdawalla, senior editor from the Planetary Society.
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:42 AM on September 14 [2 favorites]


While it's tempting to get anthropomorphized robot feelings about Cassini, using every last bit of strength to keep its antenna aligned so Earth can watch it die in Saturn's upper atmosphere, here is a more triumphant Twitter take.
posted by figurant at 9:03 AM on September 14 [9 favorites]


Also @realscientists, which is usually hosted by a single scientist for a week, is trading off between Cassini folks (@PlanetDr, @fringetracker, @Divya_M_P, @SaturnSierra, and @PlanetTreky).
posted by zamboni at 9:06 AM on September 14


Previously
(don't know if this makes it a double, but I think Cassini probably deserves at least two posts)
posted by piyushnz at 9:28 AM on September 14 [1 favorite]


The problem with the triumphant Twitter take is that by adding mass to Saturn, we're only making it stronger and more capable of flinging asteroids toward us in the future. For real revenge, we'd need to take mass away from the Saturnian system. Maybe start by stealing Mimas and see how that goes, and then work up to Enceladus or Tethys when we've got the bugs worked out.

Eventually we could take Titan back to Earth and burn it. That'd show Saturn.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 9:34 AM on September 14 [4 favorites]


There's an excellent episode of NOVA on Cassini that is streaming here (may require registration/login to your local PBS station, which means it's likely only good for US MeFites). I watched it last night when it aired on my local station and highly recommend it.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:30 AM on September 14 [2 favorites]


“My two children were born, very strategically, in a window on Voyager between the Saturn and Uranus flybys, because there were five years between them.”

DAMN. The rest of us working moms bow to you, sister. Well played.
posted by lydhre at 10:51 AM on September 14 [2 favorites]


Seconding the NOVA recommendation, and adding the New York Times' Cassini's Mission To Saturn In 100 Images.
posted by vibrotronica at 10:59 AM on September 14 [3 favorites]


Here is a real-time countdown and rendering of Cassini's current position with respect to Saturn. The last images are expected quite early in the morning tomorrow (for those of us in the states).
posted by Hot Pastrami! at 11:09 AM on September 14 [4 favorites]


Waltz Around Saturn. Cassini images animated to Shostakovich's second waltz from Jazz Suite No.2.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:55 AM on September 14


I'm not quite sure how to craft a comment about my feelings about how they put a DVD on Cassini containing "the signatures of 616,400 people from 81 countries", and it's just going to burn up in Saturn's atmosphere in 17 hours, never to be seen by anyone. It's both incredibly wasteful and incredibly sentimental to loft and thrust this little disc of plastic literally across the solar system on a vehicle designed for (almost) the sole purpose of scientific learning.
posted by achrise at 12:03 PM on September 14


I prefer this take.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:58 PM on September 14




I love this part:
Maize: In all missions there is a fixed amount of power, a fixed amount of mass, and a fixed amount of data bandwidth. So the instruments were allowed to trade various components. For example, I need 2 watts, but I don’t need 2 kilograms — does anyone have an extra 2 watts for 2 kilograms? I’m making it much simpler than it was, but that’s the general idea.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:05 PM on September 14 [1 favorite]


I'm not quite sure how to craft a comment about my feelings about how they put a DVD on Cassini containing "the signatures of 616,400 people from 81 countries", and it's just going to burn up in Saturn's atmosphere in 17 hours, never to be seen by anyone. It's both incredibly wasteful and incredibly sentimental to loft and thrust this little disc of plastic literally across the solar system on a vehicle designed for (almost) the sole purpose of scientific learning

You begrudge 16 grams, in a spacecraft the size of a school bus, in order to capture the imagination of more than half a million people from across the world? Cassini-Huygens cost US$3.26 billion in 1997 dollars, money that came from taxpayers in the US, Europe and Italy. Space missions may launch on rockets, but they're fueled by curiosity and wonder. The mission payload can afford 16 grams (2.80112045 × 10-6% of launch weight) to hold the dreams of the world.

I can't imagine how grumpy you're going to be about sending LEGO minifigs to Jupiter.
posted by zamboni at 1:46 PM on September 14 [6 favorites]


I'm not begrudging, that's the thing. To do this the whole team would have to decide that it's worth maybe a couple pounds of fuel and a boatload of planning and testing to make this gesture. It's a testament to the human will to do all this "just to have it burn up, unseen". I would have voted yes and sent in a postcard to show my middle finger to mortality. I just wish that they would have included dinosaur.jpg
posted by achrise at 2:27 PM on September 14 [1 favorite]


Right now Goldstone is watching Cassini, if you take a look at the Deep Space Network. As it gets closer to the finish, probably more of the network will be listening to it to make sure no data gets garbled. (Sarcastic Mars Rover may complain about his Netflix being interrupted when that happens.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:07 PM on September 14 [3 favorites]


In a couple of hours, Canberra will take over for the last nine hours of the mission. Madrid and Goldstone will be pointing the wrong way.
posted by zamboni at 6:57 PM on September 14


Canberra has already got one pointed towards Cassini.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:58 PM on September 14


ESA's New Norcia DSA-1 near Perth will be doing backup tracking.
posted by zamboni at 7:05 PM on September 14


“My two children were born, very strategically, in a window on Voyager between the Saturn and Uranus flybys, because there were five years between them.”

I'm sure young Saturn Spilker is enormously relived to not be the younger child.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:40 PM on September 14


I'd just turned 16 the week before Cassini was launched. News of it, photos from it, articles on its discoveries have been a regular and ongoing subject of interest for literally all of my near adult and adult life. I'm going to indulge myself in the anthropomorphic feeling this time and not consider the lump in my throat completely irrational.
posted by protorp at 1:48 AM on September 15 [1 favorite]


Well done, Cassini.

It's over- now we just have to wait for the final signal to reach Earth.
posted by zamboni at 3:38 AM on September 15


.
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 3:39 AM on September 15 [1 favorite]


cradle to grave
posted by filtergik at 3:44 AM on September 15


I am unexpectedly touched by the ceremonial tearing-up of the last set of contingency plans that just happened on the mission control livestream.
posted by dorque at 3:53 AM on September 15 [5 favorites]


LOS
.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 5:07 AM on September 15


.
posted by mikelieman at 5:27 AM on September 15


I half expect the final signal to fade into an off-hook tone or flip unexpectedly to a prerecorded disconnect message.

.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:51 AM on September 15


I wonder how long it'll take Hollywood to put out a scifi/horror movie that has Cassini returning.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:00 AM on September 15 [1 favorite]


New York Times graphic on the complex orbital mechanics that Cassini used to travel to different spots around Saturn.

Titan was the only Moon large enough to affect Cassini's orbit, so the spacecraft did multiple flybys to adjust its orbit, which enabled the saving of fuel and stretching out the mission.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:24 AM on September 15 [4 favorites]


Animation of Cassini's flight path out to Saturday, which required a gravity assist from Venus, Earth and Jupiter to get it out there. Gravity assists help get a spacecraft up to speed without using the precious fuel.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:28 AM on September 15 [2 favorites]


Just as with the space shuttle, my primary reason of sadness is not that this mission has ended.

It is that we have no replacement in the pipeline.

Losing an orbiter is like losing one of our senses. We need them out there to understand our place in the Universe.
posted by mysticreferee at 7:31 AM on September 15 [4 favorites]


Even if we started right now, it would probably take us close to 20 years to design, test, launch and travel back to Saturn.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:34 AM on September 15


.
posted by DigDoug at 7:51 AM on September 15


I feel like it should be less . and more Slim Pickens riding the bomb down whoopin' and hollerin', or Wossname riding the surfboard at the end of Dark Star.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:05 AM on September 15 [1 favorite]


She sure was a good ship.

Farewell, Aquarius Cassini, and we thank you.

(And our eternal gratitude to everyone involved in this wonderful project.)
posted by hangashore at 8:35 AM on September 15 [1 favorite]


Just as with the space shuttle, my primary reason of sadness is not that this mission has ended.

It is that we have no replacement in the pipeline
.
It also highlights that we barely have a pipeline.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:46 AM on September 15 [2 favorites]


I'm unexpectedly emotional about this.
This is also a lovely post about the final resting places of various spacecraft.
posted by Nieshka at 11:04 AM on September 15 [1 favorite]


Cassini Imaging Team Leader Carolyn Porco's last Captain's Log entry:

It is doubtful we will soon see a mission as richly suited as Cassini return to this ringed world and shoulder a task as colossal as we have borne over the last 27 years.

To have served on this mission has been to live the rewarding life of an explorer of our time, a surveyor of distant worlds. We wrote our names across the sky. We could not have asked for more.

posted by progosk at 1:41 PM on September 15


Phil Plait: Good night, Saturn
posted by homunculus at 6:09 PM on September 15 [2 favorites]




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