Yesterday, Nasa’s Cassini spacecraft executed a daredevil plunge into the gap between Saturn and its rings – the first of the spacecraft’s 22 deep dives.
Communications with the spacecraft went dark during the dive, but Nasa has today announced that it has picked up radio signals from Cassini.
Nasa’s 70m-wide Deep Space Network (DSN) antenna at Goldstone, California, managed to re-establish communications just after 08:00 BST (03:00 EST) today, and stunning images are already flooding in.
THE ‘GRAND FINALE’
Cassini has circled Saturn for 13 years since reaching its orbit in 2004, spearheading remarkable discoveries about the ringed planet and its icy moons – but now, it’s running low on fuel.
On April 22 the spacecraft began to transition into its grand finale orbits, taking one last close flyby of Saturn’s massive moon Titan.
Titan’s gravity bent Cassini’s flight path, causing the orbit to shrink until it was on course to pass between Saturn and the inner edges of its rings.
Yesterday, Cassini began the first of 22 dives through an unexplored gap before it ultimately plunges through the skies of Saturn to end its mission as ‘part of the planet itself.’