The Cassini spacecraft which has been exploring Saturn and its 11 moons had visited Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons sometime in the past. It will make a final close rendezvous with Enceladus before flying away to complete other missions.
The Cassini space probe made its 22nd pass past the Saturn’s new moon Enceladus for the final time this Saturday.
The Cassini spacecraft blasted off from Earth for its long journey to Saturn some 11 years ago. At that time, scientists who had built the spacecraft had never imagined the wealth of data it will send back giving a better understanding of the ringed planet and its moons.
Cassini has brought back a wealth of information about Saturn and its moon Enceladus during its mission. One of the most significant findings was that Enceladus emits plumes of vapor and ice full of organic molecules from a network of cracks in the southern polar region.
Scientists believe that at least in theory when the ocean comes into contact with rock, it will provide the chemical reactions for creating some of the fundamental constituents of life.
Cassini was 3,106 miles from Enceladus at about 1 PM EST on Saturday. Scientists hope that by measuring the heat that is released from the ice in the center of the moon, they will be able to deduce the exact chemical makeup of the gas in the plumes.
Linda Spilker, who is a scientist working on the Cassini project from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA said that calculating how much heat, Enceladus carries in its heart and provides an insight into its remarkable geologic activity.
Cassini will continue to gather data about Enceladus, but it will be from 4 times the distance as the craft completes its final orbits of Saturn.