As many of you know, I work on the Cassini mission as an operations engineer and have done for over a decade.

Tomorrow is the spacecraft’s final close flyby (T126) of Saturn’s moon Titan.

Just to put this into perspective for you, this may be the last time in decades that we get anywhere near Titan. There are no missions to Saturn or its most interesting* moons, Titan and Enceladus, currently funded or being built. That means there’s a minimum of ten years before a new mission could be launched. Given that the transit time to Saturn is, at a minimum, seven years and on average more like ten, that’s two decades until we can repeat Cassini’s observations.

Cassini’s impending demise makes me sad, of course, but what bothers me even more is the lack of continuity in our exploration of our solar system.

You can read the details of tomorrow’s Cassini’s observations on the NASA-JPL press release here. It includes an animation of the flyby over the surface, from the perspective of the spacecraft.

* “most interesting” being ever so slightly subjective, of course
miss_s_b: (Self: Innocent)

From: [personal profile] miss_s_b

this may be the last time in decades that we get anywhere near Titan

Poor old Rico Dredd is going to be stuck there for AGES then...
sunflowerinrain: Singing at the National Railway Museum (Default)

From: [personal profile] sunflowerinrain

It's so sad.

It's also infuriating. I have read opinions about the money being wasted on space exploration when it should be spent on healthcare, poverty, education, etc. and thought there is a point there (not one I agree with entirely, because any research can yield unexpectedly useful results even if you don't believe that humans need dreams and aspirations). And then where does the funding go instead? Bombs. Wars. Poisoning the planet. Jollies for rich people who could well pay for themselves.

But at least we have the beautiful and inspiring photos and data from Cassini et al. Thank you and everyone who work on it for that.
pbristow: (Zim: "Pesky HUMANS!")

From: [personal profile] pbristow

[NODS] I believe you missed out a couple of zeros there. =:o\
hunningham: (Default)

From: [personal profile] hunningham

Yes. The money could be spent on eradicating poverty, but somehow never is. So we end up with poverty, and no science and no travel in space. Sad and cross-making
quoththeravyn: El Greco style Don Quixote pic from (Default)

From: [personal profile] quoththeravyn

It's cool the JPL press release mentioned your somewhat esoteric instrument. :-)

And yeah, it takes so very long to do stuff in space. I remember colleagues going out for maternity/paternity leave. Those kids are now in college... Your wee ones will be grown before there's another Saturn visit. How... odd.
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)

From: [personal profile] silveradept

Given how much we all seem to be coming to the understanding of how much we need a backup pack in case Earth fails, I would think more space stuff is appropriate, not less.

But thank you for helping us learn more about the Sol system.
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)

From: [personal profile] silveradept

Indeed. And plenty of things that could exterminate us all long before we get to that point.
hollymath: (Default)

From: [personal profile] hollymath

I have way too many feels about Cassini for an ordinary person. <3
hilarita: trefoil carving (Default)

From: [personal profile] hilarita

Hopefully the exciting news last week about Enceladus means that we're getting a mission there fairly soon, even though that will still take twenty years... Space is Quite Big and it takes a long time to get there...
prophetsong: (Default)

From: [personal profile] prophetsong

Thanks for the link - my 9 year old is quite obsessed with Cassini and thought this was pretty much the coolest thing ever. The lack of continuity is really baffling and sad when there's so much more to find out.
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)

From: [personal profile] siliconshaman

I don't suppose there's any chance that someone might *ahem* 'make a mistake' and Cassini ends up in a Titan orbit instead?
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)

From: [personal profile] siliconshaman

That's the bit I never quite got. I mean I understand the need to make sure it doesn't come crashing down on Titan, but surely it's possible to 'park' it in a stable orbit? Where it could keep observing.

OTOH, I can see how orbiting Titan would be made difficult by Saturn perturbing it rather.

But.. well, aren't we then just contaminating Saturn?
Edited Date: 2017-05-02 09:10 pm (UTC)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

From: [personal profile] davidgillon

Having some idea how difficult it is to truly 'park' something in the Earth-Moon system, my brain just went slightly boggle at the idea of doing it at Saturn. Sooo many gravitational inputs....
gwendraith: credit? (star trek)

From: [personal profile] gwendraith

I don't understand the lack of continuity either. I know it's expensive but it's also, imo, extremely important that we do continue to learn and explore. I've always been fascinated by space. I wrote to NASA when I was a teenager and they sent me stacks of literature and photos of the Gemini and earlier Apollo missions.

Thanks for the link.
pbristow: (DW: Sarah & K9)

From: [personal profile] pbristow

Aw... ={:o{


[READS ARTICLE] It says they're using a magicometer to examine Titan's pointy hat! [BOUNCE, BOUNCE] We may soon have proof of the existence of Giant Space Wizards! =:o]

Any guesses what we'll get from the dives between Saturn's rings and the atmosphere? (Besides lots of really cool animations, obviously. =:o} )
pbristow: (Gir: Cute)

From: [personal profile] pbristow


"What the...? Lizards! We told them to look for giant space *lizards*!!!"


pbristow: (_Geeky)

From: [personal profile] pbristow

"Also, nailing down how long a day is on Saturn would be quite nice."

I'm guessing "too long to have to put up with *this* kind of weather!". =:o}

My mind goes bendy trying to even vaguely conjecture what the dynamics of an atmosphere way deeper than the radius of the solid thingie that's spinning inside it would be like, or even if the spinning thingie would even be a relevant factor in the behaviour of the upper (visible to us) layers of atmosphere at all. (But fortunately, no one's relying on me to figure it out!)
pheloniusfriar: (Default)

From: [personal profile] pheloniusfriar

Definitely a bitter sweet time, but it is also an exciting time where a wealth of data will be gathered in these final months. There will be years of analysis coming out of it as well to remember Cassini by. Amazing stuff! The "dry years" are going to be tough to take though, I agree.
pbristow: (_Longhair-sillygrin)

From: [personal profile] pbristow

"Psst... Wanna buy a large crate of hard drives at pre-Brexit prices?" =;o}
mortician: (Default)

From: [personal profile] mortician

I wish governments spent more on space programs!
haggis: (Default)

From: [personal profile] haggis

Not really relevant but I deeply love your usericon for this post.
mysterysquid: (Default)

From: [personal profile] mysterysquid

Bloody hells, when you lay out the timeline like that, it's a hell of a long wait.
mysterysquid: (Default)

From: [personal profile] mysterysquid

Even the technological changes would require a complete rethink every time, I imagine.
ljravengirl: (superhero)

From: [personal profile] ljravengirl

I did not know this about you. I haz excites. I knew you were freakin' smart. *snort*
I have an LJ/FB friend who works at NASA in Houston.

I just saw the Google Doodle for April 26th, too.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)

From: [personal profile] askygoneonfire

Did you see this already? And the Google Doodle today!

It must be so frustrating to know that a lot of knowledge and time is inevitably lost when, as you say, there is no continuity in the exploration missions planned and in progress.

Hope there is some sort of righteous champagne-popping, nibble-eating event to celebrate and toast the mission's conclusion.