Watch live: NASA’s Cassini makes a “grand finale” plunge into Saturn

Credits: NASA


Scientists are bracing for the controlled crashing of the beloved spacecraft. Here’s how to watch the remarkable event.Today, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will be sent crashing into the atmosphere of Saturn. But why? Couldn’t we just leave it orbiting the gas giant?

Tomorrow, September 15, around 7:55 am EDT which is 2:55 pm East African time (Eastern Daylight Time is 7 hours behind of Eastern Africa Time),Starting at 7 am EDT, NASA will be streaming live shots from inside the Jet Propulsion Laboratory mission control, NASA will tune in to watch its 20-year-old, $4 billion-plus Cassini spacecraft crash into Saturn.By the time NASA gets the last signal, Cassini will actually be long gone. It takes about an hour and 20 minutes for communications to transmit between Saturn and Earth.




Why Does Cassini Have To Die?

Cassini discovered geysers of water erupting from Enceladus, which likely originate from a subsurface ocean. As the spacecraft runs out of fuel, we need to make sure we dispose of it safely. If we left Cassini in orbit, there's a chance it could hit one of the moons in the future. I know you wonder how? 
While Cassini is in the cold space of the Jupiter, its innards are still quite warm, possibly harboring some Earthly microbes. It is powered by a radioisotope thermal electric generator (RTG), which uses the decay of plutonium-238 to provide power to the spacecraft. If the spacecraft crashed on those geysers sources, it could feasibly melt through the surface and contaminate the water several miles down.
"They could not guarantee it would never happen unless the spacecraft was parked in an orbit very very far from Saturn, or plunged into the planet," Preston Dyches from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory told IFLScience. "The science offered by the Grand Finale made the choice obvious."

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