This week NASA’s, ESA’s, and ISA’s Cassini spacecraft completed its sixth dive between Saturn and its rings, and it was the most dangerous dive yet, that’s because the spacecraft had to plunge straight through the inner edge of Saturn’s D ring, leaving it at risk of collision.
Of course, it was completed successfully as the collaboration of agencies had a plan to protect Cassini, using its high-gain antenna as a shield during the dive.
This will be the first of four paths that Cassini will make through the planet’s innermost ring and it will be the deepest dive into the dusty loop, after which it will continue on with it’s ‘Grand Finale’.
You can watch the rendered simulation of the dive below:
— CassiniSaturn (@CassiniSaturn) May 28, 2017
While Cassini is in this orbit it will take photos of the planet’s A and F rings, as well as everything between them.
It will also use the Radar instrument to scan A ring’s outer edge through the C ring, allowing scientists to discover more about the rings’ structure and how their particles interact.
Once completed, Cassini will dive through the edge of the D ring and then continue on with the rest of its 22 set ring dives. Cassini is expected to plummet down to Saturn’s atmosphere on September 15th, which is expected to be fatal, but before it burns up, Cassini will send important information about Saturn and its rings back to Earth.