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Topic: NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft

Plunge into Saturn ends NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft’s groundbreaking mission

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A thrilling epoch in the exploration of our solar system came to a close today, as NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made a fateful plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn, ending its 13-year tour of the ringed planet.

“This is the final chapter of an amazing mission, but it’s also a new beginning,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Saturn's active, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus sinks behind the giant planet in a farewell portrait from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. This view of Enceladus was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Sept. 13, 2017. It is among the last images Cassini sent back. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Saturn’s active, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus sinks behind the giant planet in a farewell portrait from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. This view of Enceladus was taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Sept. 13, 2017. It is among the last images Cassini sent back. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft begins plunge into Saturn

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is on final approach to Saturn, following confirmation by mission navigators that it is on course to dive into the planet’s atmosphere on Friday, September 15th, 2017.

Cassini is ending its 13-year tour of the Saturn system with an intentional plunge into the planet to ensure Saturn’s moons – in particular Enceladus, with its subsurface ocean and signs of hydrothermal activity – remain pristine for future exploration.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is shown heading for the gap between Saturn and its rings during one of 22 such dives of the mission's finale in this illustration. The spacecraft will make a final plunge into the planet's atmosphere on Sept. 15. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is shown heading for the gap between Saturn and its rings during one of 22 such dives of the mission’s finale in this illustration. The spacecraft will make a final plunge into the planet’s atmosphere on Sept. 15. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft makes final flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is headed toward its September 15th, 2017 plunge into Saturn, following a final, distant flyby of the planet’s giant moon Titan.

The spacecraft made its closest approach to Titan today at 12:04pm PDT (3:04pm EDT), at an altitude of 73,974 miles (119,049 kilometers) above the moon’s surface. The spacecraft is scheduled to make contact with Earth on September 12th at about 6:19pm PDT (9:19pm EDT).

Cassini made its final, distant flyby of Saturn's moon Titan on Sept. 11, which set the spacecraft on its final dive toward the planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Cassini made its final, distant flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan on Sept. 11, which set the spacecraft on its final dive toward the planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA looks back at the accomplishments of the Cassini Spacecraft

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As the Cassini spacecraft nears the end of a long journey rich with scientific and technical accomplishments, it is already having a powerful influence on future exploration. In revealing that Saturn’s moon Enceladus has many of the ingredients needed for life, the mission has inspired a pivot to the exploration of “ocean worlds” that has been sweeping planetary science over the past decade.

“Cassini has transformed our thinking in so many ways, but especially with regard to surprising places in the solar system where life could potentially gain a foothold,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters in Washington. “Congratulations to the entire Cassini team!”

Cassini's discoveries are feeding forward into future exploration of the solar system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Cassini’s discoveries are feeding forward into future exploration of the solar system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to make final plunge into Saturn September 15th

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is 18 days from its mission-ending dive into the atmosphere of Saturn. Its fateful plunge on September 15th, 2017 is a foregone conclusion — an April 22nd gravitational kick from Saturn’s moon Titan placed the two-and-a-half ton vehicle on its path for impending destruction.

Yet several mission milestones have to occur over the coming two-plus weeks to prepare the vehicle for one last burst of trailblazing science.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is shown heading for the gap between Saturn and its rings during one of 22 such dives of the mission's finale in this illustration. The spacecraft will make a final plunge into the planet's atmosphere on September 15th. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is shown heading for the gap between Saturn and its rings during one of 22 such dives of the mission’s finale in this illustration. The spacecraft will make a final plunge into the planet’s atmosphere on September 15th. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to examine Ocean Worlds in our Solar System

 

Written by Eric Villard
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will use its infrared capabilities to study the “ocean worlds” of Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, adding to observations previously made by NASA’s Galileo and Cassini orbiters. The Webb telescope’s observations could also help guide future missions to the icy moons.

Europa and Enceladus are on the Webb telescope’s list of targets chosen by guaranteed time observers, scientists who helped develop the telescope and thus get to be among the first to use it to observe the universe. One of the telescope’s science goals is to study planets that could help shed light on the origins of life, but this does not just mean exoplanets; Webb will also help unravel the mysteries still held by objects in our own solar system (from Mars outward).

Possible spectroscopy results from one of Europa’s water plumes. This is an example of the data the Webb telescope could return. (NASA-GSFC/SVS, Hubble Space Telescope, Stefanie Milam, Geronimo Villanueva)

Possible spectroscopy results from one of Europa’s water plumes. This is an example of the data the Webb telescope could return. (NASA-GSFC/SVS, Hubble Space Telescope, Stefanie Milam, Geronimo Villanueva)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft to start last five orbits around Saturn

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will enter new territory in its final mission phase, the Grand Finale, as it prepares to embark on a set of ultra-close passes through Saturn’s upper atmosphere with its final five orbits around the planet.

Cassini will make the first of these five passes over Saturn at 9:22pm PDT Sunday, August 13th (12:22am EDT Monday, August 14th). The spacecraft’s point of closest approach to Saturn during these passes will be between about 1,010 and 1,060 miles (1,630 and 1,710 kilometers) above Saturn’s cloud tops.

This artist's rendering shows Cassini as the spacecraft makes one of its final five dives through Saturn's upper atmosphere in August and September 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows Cassini as the spacecraft makes one of its final five dives through Saturn’s upper atmosphere in August and September 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft continues dives between Saturn and it’s Rings

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft makes its unprecedented series of weekly dives between Saturn and its rings, scientists are finding — so far — that the planet’s magnetic field has no discernible tilt. This surprising observation, which means the true length of Saturn’s day is still unknown, is just one of several early insights from the final phase of Cassini’s mission, known as the Grand Finale.

Other recent science highlights include promising hints about the structure and composition of the icy rings, along with high-resolution images of the rings and Saturn’s atmosphere.

Recent images of features in Saturn's C ring called "plateaus" reveal a streaky texture that is very different from the textures of the regions around them. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Recent images of features in Saturn’s C ring called “plateaus” reveal a streaky texture that is very different from the textures of the regions around them. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft’s 20 Year Mission to come to a close

 

Written by Steven Siceloff
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationFlorida – As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft spends its last few weeks in orbit around Saturn before making a controlled impact with the planet in what NASA dubbed Cassini’s “Grand Finale,” some of those who helped launch the mission 20 years ago are thrilled with the success of the massive probe they helped dispatch to one of the solar system’s most intriguing worlds.

“There’s just a real sense of fulfillment associated with being part of a launch team, particularly something as big as Cassini and as complicated as Cassini is and the whole makeup of the whole Cassini team,” said Ray Lugo, launch director for Cassini. “It was a big community of folks and everybody had to do their part to make sure that mission got off right.”

The planet Saturn as seen from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. (NASA)

The planet Saturn as seen from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. (NASA)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft finds evidence that Saturn’s Moon Enceladus axis may have shifted

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Saturn’s icy, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus may have tipped over in the distant past, according to recent research from NASA’s Cassini mission. Researchers with the mission found evidence that the moon’s spin axis — the line through the north and south poles — has reoriented, possibly due to a collision with a smaller body, such as an asteroid.

Examining the moon’s features, the team showed that Enceladus appears to have tipped away from its original axis by about 55 degrees — more than halfway toward rolling completely onto its side.

Working with image data from NASA's Cassini mission, researchers have found evidence that Saturn's moon Enceladus may have tipped over, reorienting itself so that terrain closer to its original equator was relocated to the poles. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/Cornell University)

Working with image data from NASA’s Cassini mission, researchers have found evidence that Saturn’s moon Enceladus may have tipped over, reorienting itself so that terrain closer to its original equator was relocated to the poles. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/Cornell University)

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