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National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Cassini The Grand Finale


With help from the public, members of NASAs the interior is rotating. It will vastly improve our
Cassini mission to Saturn have chosen to call knowledge of how much material is in the rings,
the spacecrafts final orbits the Grand Finale. bringing us closer to understanding their origins.
Cassinis particle detectors will sample icy ring
In late 2016, the Cassini spacecraft will begin a particles being funneled into the atmosphere
daring set of orbits that is, in some ways, like a by Saturns magnetic field. And its cameras will
whole new mission. The spacecraft will repeat take amazing, ultra-close images of Saturns
edly climb high above Saturns poles, flying just rings and clouds.
outside its narrow F ring. Cassini will probe the
water-rich plume of the active geysers on the No other mission has explored this unique re
planets intriguing moon Enceladus, and then gion so close to the planet. What we learn from
will hop the rings and dive between the planet these activities will help to improve our under
and its innermost ring 22 times. standing of how giant planets and families of
planets everywhere form and evolve. At the
As Cassini plunges past Saturn, the spacecraft end of its final orbit, as Cassini falls into Saturns
will collect some incredibly rich and valuable atmosphere, it completes its 20-year mission
information that the missions original planners by ensuring that the biologically interesting
might never have imagined. The spacecraft will worlds Enceladus and Titan could never be con
make detailed maps of Saturns gravity and taminated by hardy microbes that might have
magnetic fields, revealing how the planet is stowed away and survived the journey intact. Its
composed on the inside, and possibly helping inspiring, adventurous and romantic a fitting
to solve the irksome mystery of just how fast end to this thrilling story of discovery.
2.

1. 3.

4. 5. 6.

7. 8.

1. This huge northern hemisphere storm wrapped around the entire planet. 5. Vertical structures rise from the edge of the B ring, perhaps formed as moon-
lets disturb the ring particles streaming nearby.
2. This view of Saturns rings in the ultraviolet indicates there is more ice toward the
outer part of the rings. 6. Radar imaging data from Cassini indicate the presence of large bodies of liquid
on Titans surface.
3. Cassini captured this false-color view of the tiny moon Hyperion in 2005. The color
differences may indicate differences in surface material composition. 7. Three of Saturns moons are seen against the darkened nightside of the planet.
Dione (at left) is partly obscured by Saturn.
4. Color was used in this simulated image to represent information about ring particle
sizes based on measurements of three radio signals sent to Earth by Cassini. 8. The final part of Cassinis mission the Grand Finale will take the space
craft to previously unexplored regions of the Saturn system.

Cassini The Grand Finale 2 NASA Facts


Mission Science Objectives
Saturn cloud properties and atmospheric composi
Mission Timeline
tion; winds and temperatures; internal structure and rota
tion; ionosphere; origin and evolution
1997
Rings Structure and composition; dynamical process
The orbiter, the largest
es; interrelation of rings and satellites; dust and microme
interplanetary spacecraft
teoroid environment ever constructed by NASA,
launches on October 15 1997 2004
Titan Atmospheric constituent abundances; distribu (EDT) from Cape Canav-
tion of trace gases and aerosols; winds and tempera eral Air Force Station in Seven-year cruise to Saturn
tures; surface state and composition; upper atmosphere Florida, with the European on a gravity-assist trajectory:
Space Agencys Huygens two swingbys of Venus, one
Icy Satellites Characteristics and geological histories; probe aboard. of Earth and one of Jupiter to
mechanisms of surface modification; surface composition give the spacecraft the boost
needed to reach Saturn.
and distribution; bulk composition and internal structure;
interaction with magnetosphere 2004
Magnetosphere Configuration and current systems; 2005
Arrival and orbit insertion
particle composition, sources and sinks; dynamics of on June 30 (PDT). Cassini Released on Decem-
the magnetosphere; interaction with solar wind, satel passes between the F ber 24, 2004, the Huy-
lites and rings; Titans interaction with solar wind and and G rings and allows gens probe descends
magnetosphere itself to be captured as a through Titans atmo-
satellite of Saturn. sphere, lands on Titan
and relays data to Earth
on January 14, 2005.
A Decade of Discoveries 2004 2008

As of its 10th anniversary in Saturn orbit, July 2014, the


Cassinis four-year prime
stalwart spacecraft has beamed back to Earth more than mission orbital tour
500 gigabytes of scientific data through NASAs Deep consists of 45 Titan 2008 2010
Space Network, enabling the publication of more than encounters, 10 icy
satellite encounters and Equinox Mission: two-
3,000 scientific papers. Cassini has completed more than year mission extension,
76 orbits of Saturn.
200 orbits of Saturn, carried out 132 close flybys of Sat 64 orbits, 28 Titan en-
urns moons and discovered seven new moons. counters, 8 Enceladus
encounters, 3 with other
Representing just a sampling, 10 of Cassinis top accom smaller icy satellites;
plishments and discoveries are: 2010 2017 equinox crossing in
August 2009.
The European Space Agencys Huygens probe, car Solstice Mission: seven-
ried to the Saturn system aboard the Cassini orbiter, year mission extension
parachutes to Titan, making the first landing on a consisting of 155 orbits,
54 Titan encounters,
moon in the outer solar system.
11 Enceladus encoun-
ters, 5 other icy moon
Cassini discovers active, icy plumes spraying from
encounters; opportunity 2017
tiger stripe fractures on Saturns moon Enceladus. to observe springearly
summer in northern Grand Finale: at the
Saturns rings are found to be active and dynamic hemisphere. spacecrafts final orbit,
a laboratory for how planets or moons form. it falls into Saturns
atmosphere, ending its
Titan, Saturns largest moon, is revealed to have rain, extraordinary 20-year
rivers, lakes and seas; it is shrouded in a thick, nitro mission of discovery.
gen-rich atmosphere that might be similar to what
Earths was like long ago.

Cassini The Grand Finale 3 NASA Facts


Earth and Moon

With Saturn sheltering Cassini from the suns glare, the spacecraft captured 141 images to create a panoramic mosaic. Some of Saturns moons can be discerned in this contrast-
enhanced image, as well as the tiny dots of our own planet and its moon.

Saturns great northern storm of 20102011, which


eventually encircled the entire planet for months, is
imaged and characterized.

Studies reveal radio-wave patterns are not tied to


Saturns interior rotation, as previously thought.

Vertical structures in the rings are imaged for the


first time; they appear to be made up of particles
piled up in bumps or ridges more than 2 miles
(3 km) high.

Titans prebiotic chemistry is studied.

The mystery of the dual, brightdark surface of the Cassini will end its historic mission with 22 daring loops passing through the gap
between Saturn and the innermost ring.
moon Iapetus is solved it is thought that one side
of the moons topmost ice layer has sublimated
(vaporized), leaving a dark, carbon-rich coating on The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the Califor
that side while the ice condensed on the other side, nia Institute of Technology, manages the Cassini mission
making it appear brighter. for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA). Cassini is a cooperative mission of NASA, the
Cassini captures the first complete view of the north European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency,
polar hexagon and discovers giant hurricanes at with participation by hundreds of scientists and engineers
both of Saturns poles. from Europe and the U.S.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration For more information and images, visit:
Jet Propulsion Laboratory saturn.jpl.nasa.gov
California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, California

www.nasa.gov

JPL 400-1579 9/14 NASA Facts