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Cassini set to plunge into Saturn

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is closing in on the end of its epic 20-year-long journey in space, as it prepares to take the final plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn. A gravitational kick in April from Saturn’s moon Titan placed the 2.5-tonne space probe on its path for impending destruction on September 15. However, several mission milestones have to occur over the coming two weeks to prepare the vehicle for one last burst of trailblazing science.“The Cassini mission has been packed full of scientific firsts, and our unique planetary revelations will continue to the very end of the mission as Cassini becomes Saturn’s first planetary probe, sampling Saturn’s atmosphere up until the last second,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the US. On September 9, Cassini will make the last of 22 passes between Saturn itself and its rings — the closest approach will be 1,680 km above the clouds tops. The spacecraft will make a distant flyby of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, on September 11.

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