Cassini Buzzes Enceladus

Cassini at EnceladusToday (March 12, 2008) just after 12 noon, 3:00 pm EDT, the Cassini Spacecraft comes within 50 km. of the surface of Enceladus, one of the most interesting of Saturn’s moons.  Absolutely unprecedented is the fact that Cassini will pass through (or, at least graze) one of the moon’s water-ice geysers.

The source of the geysers is of great interest to scientists who think liquid water, perhaps even an ocean, may exist in the area.  While flying through the edge of the plumes, Cassini will be approximately 200 kilometers (120 miles) from the surface.  At closest approach to Enceladus, Cassini will be only 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the moon.

Surprisingly, the particles are small enough that they pose no more threat than Cassini faces daily around Saturn (those rings are pretty dusty, after all).

Posts from NASA and JPL bloggers who are intimately involved with the mission can be found here.

Thanks to Emily Lakdawalla at The Planetary Society for the links.

Already, Cassini’s lead propultion engineer, Todd Barber, reports that the final Orbit Trim Maneuver before encounter was cancelled.  No need for it!

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