New 2-year mission for Cassini
This new mission will look closer at Titan and Enceladus.
June 30, 2008
Provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
June 30, 2008
In this computer artist's rendering, the Cassini spacecraft fires its engine in a maneuver that will place the spacecraft in orbit around Saturn.
Photo by Dave Seal/JPL/NASA
NASA's Cassini mission is closing one chapter of its journey at Saturn and embarking on a new one with a 2-year mission that will address new questions and bring it closer to two of its most intriguing targets — Titan and Enceladus.
Today, Cassini completes its 4-year prime mission and begins its extended mission, which was approved in April of this year.
Among other things, Cassini revealed the Earth-like world of Saturn's moon Titan and showed the potential habitability of another moon, Enceladus. These two worlds are primary targets in the 2-year extended mission, dubbed the Cassini Equinox Mission. This time period also will allow for monitoring seasonal effects on Titan and Saturn, exploring new places within Saturn's magnetosphere, and observing the unique ring geometry of the Saturn equinox in August of 2009, when sunlight will pass directly through the plane of the rings.
"We've had a wonderful mission and a very eventful one in terms of the scientific discoveries we've made, and yet an uneventful one when it comes to the spacecraft behaving so well," says Bob Mitchell, Cassini program manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. "We are incredibly proud to have completed all of the objectives we set out to accomplish when we launched. We answered old questions and raised quite a few new ones and so our journey continues."
The ringed planet sits in repose, the center of its own macrocosm of many rings and moons and Cassini.
Photo by NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
A new addition to the Cassini science team is Bob Pappalardo who will step into the role of Cassini Project Scientist in July, taking over for Dennis Matson, a multi-year veteran on the project who will be working on future flagship mission studies to the outer solar system. "I am honored and humbled to be able to work with such a scientifically rich mission, and with the outstanding scientists and engineers who are the backbone of Cassini," says Pappalardo.