Cassini launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 15 October, 1997. It took
nearly seven years to reach Saturn, but did so flawlessly on 30 June, 2004.
Since that day, it has been ceaselessly taking measurements, images and other
data and sending them back to Earth for scientists to analyze.
The probe not only answered many questions for planetary and astronomical
scientists, but spurred them to ask even more. After Cassini's flawless
performance over the last four years of its primary mission, NASA decided to
extend its livelihood for at least an
additional two years.
The new mission will further study two of Saturn's moons,
Titan and Enceladus, as well as gather more data on the planet's climate cycle
and magnetosphere. It will also have to the chance to see something from a
unique perspective that Earth-based telescopes cannot – the planet's equinox in
August of 2009 will allow sunlight to pass directly through the plane of the
intricate ring structures.
Cassini's secondary mission, dubbed Cassini
Equinox Mission, will last until September of 2010. Another two years of
outstanding service could even see a third mission, dedicated to Titan and Enceladus.
Today marks the four year anniversary of Cassini's arrival to Saturn and is the
last day of its primary mission in the system. Tomorrow it embarks on a new
mission which will no doubt return a wealth of valuable data, intriguing images
and undiscovered secrets.