On April 26, Cassini will start a series of dives through the 1,500-mile-wide gap between Saturn and its rings as part of the mission’s grand finale.
Jonathan Lunine, is the director of the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science and has worked on a variety of aspects of the Cassini mission, including the radar and other instruments, since the 1980’s. Lunine says the ‘discovery machine’ has set a high standard for future space missions.
“I think it is too early to eulogize Cassini on the occasion of its death, as incineration is five months away. Between now and September, there will be a ton of new science on what’s inside Saturn, how much the rings weigh, and amazing detail on rings, ring-moons and atmosphere—all made possible by these tight, ‘proximal’ orbits. I have high confidence Cassini will make it through the first of the grand finale orbits just fine.
“Cassini is the quintessential ‘discovery machine’, unearthing surprises everywhere it has looked in the Saturn system. Cassini has done things and gone places it was not designed for, and come out a champion every time. I will be sad to see its mission end this fall, but extraordinarily grateful to have been a part of this amazing odyssey from its very beginnings in the 1980’s. Cassini sets a high bar for missions yet to come.”