Cassini Spacecraft Zips To Close Encounter With Saturnian Moon
The Cassini interplanetary traveler whizzed at 40,000 miles an hour relative speed past a moon of Saturn called Enceladus, skimming just 30 miles above the lunar surface, NASA announced.
A signal from Cassini was picked up by the Deep Space Network station in Canberra, Australia, and relayed to the Cassini mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
During the flyby, Cassini focused its cameras and other remote sensing instruments on Enceladus with an emphasis on its south pole, where parallel stripes or fissures dubbed "tiger stripes" line the region. That area is of particular interest because geysers of water-ice and vapor jet out of the fissures and supply material to Saturn’s E-ring. Scientists hope to learn more about the fissures and whether liquid water is indeed the engine powering the geysers.
Two more Enceladus flybys are planned for October. The first of those will bring Cassini just 16 miles from the surface. Enceladus measures about 500 kilometers (310 miles) in diameter — just one-seventh the diameter of Earth’s moon.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL.