It’s the beginning of the end. On Nov. 30, NASA’s Cassini mission will begin the ring-grazing final chapter of its career at Saturn, one that will end with the spacecraft’s terminal plunge into the gas giant’s unforgiving atmosphere.
The second half of this chapter, in which the spacecraft will dive through the gap between Saturn and its rings, will be like a whole new mission, said Linda Spilker, Cassini’s project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“We’re so close to Saturn that we’ll really get measurements that just haven’t been possible,” she said.
Launched in 1997, Cassini was sent to explore Saturn and its surrounding panoply of lunar satellites. Over...