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Cassini's 'last breath of data' from 1.5 bn km away

Cassini has spent the past 20 years in space, including 13 years studying Saturn and its moons, and is now running out of fuel.

NASA will use Cassini’s last fuel reserves to place the spacecraft on a direct course into Saturn’s atmosphere where it will burn up and disintegrate like a meteor.

The end of the mission is designed to protect Saturn’s moons Titan and Enceladus, which have the potential to support life.

As Cassini descends, it will capture images and data from Saturn, its atmosphere and probe the inner workings of the planet.

Back here on Earth, those last whispers of data will be captured in ‘real-time’ by the giant antenna ‘ears’ of the CSIRO-operated Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC).

The station is one of NASA’s three tracking stations around the world that provide vital two-way radio contact with spacecraft like Cassini.

CSIRO’s Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said CSIRO had a long and successful history in space.

“CSIRO has over 50 years of collaboration with NASA, and designing, building and operating major research facilities like CDSCC and ASKAP, and transitioning space technologies to many SMEs,” Dr Marshall said.

“Now, our team in Canberra will play a crucial role monitoring Cassini’s final hours – its ‘Grand Finale’.”

Read the full article on the CSIRO website

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