NASA’s Cassini spacecraft’s mission to Saturn has lasted more than a decade. It has given us countless breathtaking looks at the planet and its rings, and has given scientists tons of new information about the ringed planet.
Now, Cassini gears up for the mission’s last phase. Officials at NASA looked to the public to vote for a name for Cassin’s final mission phase. “Cassini Grand Finale” was chosen after more than 2,000 votes. That sounds a lot better than the mission team’s original name, “the proximal orbits.” That name doesn’t generate the buzz that NASA’s looking for as Cassini wraps up its mission.
“We chose a name for this mission phase that would reflect the exciting journey ahead while acknowledging that it’s a big finish for what has been a truly great show,” Project Manager Earl Maize said.
What does the “Cassini Grand Finale” entail? The spacecraft will map Saturn’s gravity and magnetic fields and take close-up snapshots of the planet’s famous rings. Come September 2017, Cassini’s mission will come to an end as it plunges into Saturn’s atmosphere.
The Cassini mission began in 1997 and was a joint venture between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.
One of Cassini’s most famous achievements was releasing a probe named Huygens onto the surface of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Cassini also spotted water ice geysers on Enceladus, another one of Saturn’s moons. This discovery could indicate a subsurface ocean on the moon.