How to Watch Cassini’s Grand Death Dive Into Saturn
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will make a death dive into Saturn on Friday, ending a 20-year mission that involved gathering data and photographing the ringed planet and its moons.
The space agency will livestream the spacecraft, officially known as Cassini-Huygens, making its “grand finale” from its video site, NASA TV, and its YouTube channel. The show is expected to kick off at 7 am EST and run through 8:30 am EST.
Viewers won’t be able to see Cassini disintegrating in Saturn’s atmosphere live (the last signal from the spacecraft is expected around 7:55 am EST). But NASA plans to show animated clips of its final journey and provide commentary.
NASA, in partnership with and the European and Italian space agencies, launched the spacecraft—named after the astronomer Giovanni Cassini—in October 1997 from Cape Canaveral, Fla. After traveling for seven years, Cassini finally reached Saturn, where it remained in the planet’s orbit to gather information and take pictures.
While near Saturn, the spacecraft has taken over 450,000 images, leading to the discovery of six named moons. The data it collected was used as the basis of nearly 4,000 science papers, according to NASA. Overall, it’s traveled nearly 5 billion miles in space.
NASA has described Cassini’s mission as “one of the most ambitious efforts in planetary space exploration ever mounted.”
You can watch an embedded video of the live event below:
With Cassini’s fuel running low, NASA and other participating space agencies decided to crash the spacecraft into Saturn’s atmosphere in order to prevent any contamination by any Earth microbes that may be inside. During its descent into the atmosphere, the Cassini spacecraft will continue to collect information about Saturn’s atmosphere.
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Because of the time it takes for radio signals to reach Earth, there will be an 83-minute delay in getting information back from Cassini. So while Cassini’s final moments will be around 6:31 AM EST, people on Earth won’t get confirmation until well after the fact.
“The spacecraft’s final signal will be like an echo,” Cassini project manager Earl Maize said in a statement. “It will radiate across the solar system for nearly an hour and a half after Cassini itself has gone.”