NASA’s Cassini spacecraft prepares for the closest Saturn rings flyby next week

Cassini spacecraft was launched in 1997 and has been touring the Saturn system since 2004. The spacecraft is scheduled to graze past the outer rings of the planet and will give one of the best views of the feature.

From November 30 to April 22, the Cassini spacecraft will be circling high over and below the poles of the ringed planet, diving every seven days. The craft will do this maneuver 20 times giving an unparalleled view of the unexplored outer rings of the planet. This was made possible by pumping up the spacecraft’s orbit this year by the Engineers at NASA to increase the tilt on Saturn’s ring.

Come November 30, and Cassini will get a gravitational nudge courtesy Saturn’s moon Titan and will begin the endgame of a highly successful mission. The spacecraft has been circling the Saturn and its moons since 2004. It has many exciting discoveries to its name, and this includes a global ocean within Enceladus and liquid methane sea on Titan.

The phase of the mission has been dubbed Ring-Grazing Orbits since the craft will be skimming the outer edge of the rings. The craft also has instruments which can sample particles and gas as the craft crosses the plane of the rings. Cassini will try to test molecules of faint gasses and particles in a series of passes through the rings.

In two orbits the craft will pass directly through a very faint ring which was the result of meteors striking the two small moons Janus and Epimetheus. In March and April, the craft will pass through the dusty outer fringes of the F rings. The craft will fly close but still will be 7800 km distant from the F-Ring. There could be a hazard of dust during this phase of the mission.