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Cassini Makes its 'Goodbye Kiss' Flyby of Titan

13 September 2017

NASA's spacecraft Cassini will conclude its 20-year voyage of space exploration in a terminal blaze of glory through Saturn's atmosphere on Friday.

"Cassini has been in a long-term relationship with Titan, with a new rendezvous almost every month for more than a decade", Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize of NASA said in a statement.

This extended stay has permitted observations of the long-term variability of the planet, moons, rings and magnetosphere, observations not possible from short, flyby-style missions.

Cassini "GoodBye Kiss" for Titan: NASA Cassini spacecraft also made in depth plunges not just Saturn and its rings and manoeuvres to provide insights into the planet moons - Titan and Enceladus too.

Because the probe has so little fuel left, scientists made a decision to end the mission this way to avoid the spacecraft someday impacting one of Saturn's moons, at least two of which are potentially habitable for microbes. The main goal is to make sure that Cassini doesn't contaminate Titan or fellow Saturn satellite Enceladus with microbes from Earth. Its self-destruction will ensure Saturn's moons remain unharmed by the remnants of the spacecraft, as some of the moons are thought to be the most likely places in the solar system for life to have developed.

NASA will be extracting every last detail of data from Cassini as it disappears forever above one of the Earth's most recognisable - and now less mysterious - neighbours.

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In fact, one of Cassini's biggest revelations includes unveiling Enceladus - Saturn's icy moon - and the fact that it has numerous ingredients needed for life.

The probe passed within 75,000 miles (120,000km) of the moon's surface on Monday.

Large geysers coming from Enceladus' south pole suggest the presence of a subsurface liquid ocean that could possibly host microbial life.

Prepared for all contingencies, the spacecraft is equipped with two computers, two star scanners, two Sun sensors, two gyroscopes, and two radios.

No photos will be taken during Cassini's final plunge through Saturn's atmosphere.

Cassini Makes its 'Goodbye Kiss' Flyby of Titan