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NASA's Cassini Spacecraft to Take Slingshot Dive Inside Saturn's Rings

25 April 2017

The close flyby of Titan is set to alter the orbit of the spacecraft so it will pass through the gap between Saturn and its rings.

NASA Cassini spacecraft is about to embark on the most crucial part of its mission, the grand finale "death dive" where it will plunge to its demise, but not before beaming to Earth some incredible photographs of our home planet taken from space.

Aside from planet Earth, the spacecraft also photographed the moon.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft just made its 127th and final close approach to Saturn's moon Titan. Zoom in far enough, and you can even see our moon, dimly glowing to the left of Earth.

Scientists involved with Cassini's radar investigation will look at their last set of radar images of the hydrocarbon seas and lakes across the north polar region of Titan this week.

The mission will conclude with a science-rich plunge into Saturn's atmosphere on September 15 this year. This flyby is the last dramatic act for Cassini before it starts its Grand finale.

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During this observation Cassini was looking toward the backlit rings, making a mosaic of multiple images, with the sun blocked by the disk of Saturn.

"Ithaca Chasma is up to 60 miles (100 kilometers) wide, and runs almost three-fourths of the way around icy Tethys (660 miles or 1,062 kilometers across)", NASA officials wrote in a statement today (April 24). Space.com noted that the canyon, known as Ithaca Chasma, is visible in an image from Cassini, teetering between the day side and night side of the moon.

After 20 years in space, Cassini is on the last leg of its mission to study the solar system's second-largest planet.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency.

If all goes well, Cassini will repeat that orbit on a weekly basis until September 15, collecting samples of Saturn's atmosphere and measuring its mass and weight in the process, according to The Verge.

NASA's Cassini Spacecraft to Take Slingshot Dive Inside Saturn's Rings