back to article NASA starts countdown for Cassini probe's Saturn death dive

NASA has revealed its final plans to crash the Cassini probe into Saturn next year. Cassini–Huygens, to give the craft its full name, launched in 1997 and skipped past Venus twice and Earth once for some gravity-assisted acceleration action. It then grazed Asteroid 2685 Masursky, used Jupiter for acceleration and arrived at at …

  1. Winkypop Silver badge

    What is Saturn's policy on recycling?

    Do we get some money back for scrap?

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: What is Saturn's policy on recycling?

      Probably closer to "You will be assimilated"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What is Saturn's policy on recycling?

      Similar the the UKs, they get you to spend hours washing and sorting it, to be free of contaminants (with vast amounts of processed chlorinated drinkable water) only to then burn it behind your back.

      So the public think it gets 'recycled' into {something}, but really just allows no one to have issue with large multinational supermarkets, packaging everything 'ever so pretty', in plastic packaging that lasts a thousand years, for something eaten that day.

      If Supermarkets were made to remain responsible for their packaging after use, even once in the hands of the consumer, they'd be the biggest polluters in the UK.

  2. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge


    "Humanity's throwing away three space probes in the next 18 months."

    Could they not have just put them on Ebay?

    "L@@K space probe. High mileage but all original parts. $1 - buyer collects"

    1. DropBear

      Re: Hmm...

      You forgot to add "comes without the original remote" - I might just have to start a dispute...

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Hmm...

      Didn't someone buy one of the old Soviet Lunokhod rovers from the Russians? Exactly on those terms too. It's all yours sir! Still on the Moon, and full of delicious nuclear waste.

      If you try to collect it, we'll shoot you for being a terrorist...

  3. 0laf Silver badge

    Bye-bye most excellent piece of space kit

    What a shame it's coming to an end. What an absolutely blinding bit of building and boffinry.

    That thing has been up there so long it become a bit of space furniture and it's sad to see these long duration missions end.

    Hopefully with efficient things like ion drives being usable now we might see missions that can last even longer.

    1. Tom Paine

      Re: Bye-bye most excellent piece of space kit

      Cheer up! Another class-of-2004 vehicle is still going strong, more than a decade into it's planned 90 Sol lifetime...

  4. Valarian


    I quite like the idea that in a few hundred thousand years or so, long after Humanity has [gone extinct / spread to distant suns / lost it's civilisation and climbed back up] someone else will one day drop a lander on a tiny rock and discover the remains of Rosetta and Philae, and by our works know us.

    We should definitely transmit a memory-filling pattern of 'Frist!' to Rosetta before lithobraking, however.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Legacy

      "by our works know us" but only if the prevailing "time-line story" permits.

      Oh that metallic looking thing? no that's just a bit of crystal that has formed over time, purely coincidental, no we are the only intelligent life that has ever been on earth.

      (note to the clean up team have we finished Phrygia yet?)

    2. Tony Haines

      Re: Legacy

      Maybe in that case we should take the opportunity for a little misdirection.

      Perhaps the next probe could display a little plaque, declaring "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Legacy

        But recall the last three sad lines of that poem:

        Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

        Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

        The lone and level sands stretch far away.

        We might prefer the slightly more up-beat ending of Horace Smith's version:

        He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess

        What powerful but unrecorded race

        Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

    3. fedoraman

      Re: Legacy

      Have an upvote just for using "lithobraking".

  5. Milton

    "From that position Cassini will be able to visit Saturn's “F rings” “kinked and braided”. Cassini's not had a good look at the F rings since 2004 and then only managed to see one side. This time around – or times, because the mission plans 20 orbits – the craft will get a very good look at the rings from a distance of just 7,800 kilometers."

    Ah, the braided rings: perhaps THIS time a probe will send back a decent photo of 'Message Bearer' ... ;-)

    1. Blacklight

      Ah, the braided rings: perhaps THIS time a probe will send back a decent photo of 'Message Bearer' ... ;-)

      I for one welcome the Chtaptisk Fithp...

  6. Tezfair
    Thumb Up

    Wrong move

    I think it should be flinged into space to forever roam for humanity.

    1. Peter Reid

      Re: Wrong move

      Not enough fuel left, alas, to fling it anywhere else in the solar system: it's a permanent captive of Saturn. (Indeed, if you remember how it arrived in the Saturnian system, with a huge orbital injection burn, it would need a huge amount of fuel to reach escape velocity. And then, to roam forever (a la Voyager or New Horizon), it has to reach SOLAR escape velocity...)

      Amazing achievement, though, this mission.

      1. cray74

        Re: Wrong move

        Not enough fuel left, alas, to fling it anywhere else in the solar system

        Up through about 2013-2014, Cassini had enough fuel that - with a Titanian gravity assist - it could reach Uranus. However, it'd be a very slow transit, something like 20 years. The cost of maintaining the Cassini team and the chances for hardware failure were too high to make the option viable.

        1. Peter Reid

          Re: Wrong move

          Wow -- thanks for that info: I hadn't realised that it would be possible! Extraordinary to think that it could have done that, and that they considered the option... (Understandable why they didn't do it in the end, though.)

          Out of interest: where did you get that bit of information? It's always interesting to find background documentation on the engineering aspects of these missions -- some of the NASA history documents on probes like Surveyor, Mariners and Pioneers make for fascinating reading, and they certainly make you respect the planners and engineers involved.


          1. cray74

            Re: Wrong move

            Out of interest: where did you get that bit of information?

            The font of all knowledge, of course. ;) There's a full table of end-of-mission options for Cassini. I was incorrect about the 2014 date; the presented options date to 2008. I don't know when visits to other gas giants became non-viable due to fuel reserves.

        2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: Wrong move / cost

          Why is there always enough money for, let's say questionable things, but never enough for the stuff that's really interesting...

  7. Unicornpiss Silver badge

    Just seems a shame.. kill something that's been working flawlessly for 20 years.

  8. Jock in a Frock


    "Probe Dump"

  9. Rocketist

    Alert to cloudspace violation durint saturnalia

    Cloud traffic alert to all Saturnians: An alien-made object is expected to strike cloud top during the ides of September next year in the equatorial region; the precise impact location will be distributed later. Check back frequently for updates. The area concerned will be closed to all cloud traffic until the hazard is over.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cassini - we'll miss you ...

    We may look back from the future at the incredible images which Cassini (and let's not forget the Huygens lander on Titan), has faithfully sent back to us, and say, (a bit like with Apollo XI), "I remember seeing these for the first time" ...

    I can't think of a single image from this mission which didn't amaze me with beauty and razor-sharp clarity, even if sometimes it took a few minutes to work out the PoV, identify shadows and structures as apparently improbable as any Escher print.

    When I was a spotty teenager, I used to spend hours watching Saturn swimming* across the eye-piece of the school's telescope, trying to faithfully sketch what I could see, for the benefit of the Saturn dept. of the BAA and I counted moons, (I still remember some of their, almost magical, names).

    But I never thought I would spend at least as much time again, gazing in spellbound wonder at the whole system up so-close, as I could have never visualised how complex it all was !

    Cassini & team, I salute you - you've taken our eyes to places we never could have imagined and who knows, maybe the best images are yet to come in this last year.

    * or as if painted on the bottom of a swimming pool, due to the effects of /our/ atmosphere.

  11. Marcus Fil

    Have you had an accident that wasn't your fault?

    Perhaps been hit by a structured craft of unknown origin? Then call 'Galatic Lawsuits R Us' on Saturn 555 25436 529.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Have you had an accident that wasn't your fault?

      Not getting satisfaction? Call Jabba & Jubba "The Insurers". Guaranteed Results! More than 100 non-paying low-brow civilizations destroyed!

  12. Hubert Thrunge Jr.

    Good job!

    It's a good job they're doing this, because the last thing we want is for it to disappear in deep space, into a black hole, and come back in the 24th Century as "C-ini" hell bent on finding its creator at the expense of the Carbon Units.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021