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Viewings: 4298on 15 October 1997 the launch of the spacecraft Cassini. In the 15 years that have passed since then, he wrapped 6.1 billion km (that is, to fly around the Earth more than 152 thousand times) and by right is one of the most distinguished travellers machines.
Twice having flown about Venus and visit Jupiter, in 2004, Cassini arrived in orbit of Saturn, where for already eight years, photographing its surroundings and conducting unprecedented dimensions.
All orbits Cassini around Saturn since June 30, 2004 September 15, 2017. Red orbit Titanium, white - six other domestic satellites. (Here and below the image NASA / JPL-Caltech.)
Least of all, the probe can be blamed for what he writes home. Cassini sent already 444 GB of scientific data, including more than 300 thousand images. On this basis, published more than 2.5 thousand scientific articles, in which, among other things, described the first images of the hydrocarbon lakes on Titan, the opening of jets of water ice and organic particles spewing from the moon of Saturn of Enceladus, the monster storm on Saturn and many other interesting phenomena.
""Cassini" not only does the most comprehensive study of the giant planet, but also performs the most complex gravitational manoeuvres in the history of cosmonautics, - said Robert Mitchell, of the jet propulsion Laboratory of NASA. - Each flyby of Titan, for example, can be compared with a hit in the eye of a needle. And we have done it already 87 times with accurate to within approximately one mile (1.6 km), driving a vehicle from a distance of one and a half billion kilometers".
The difficulty is partly due to the fact that before the unit has the task to strike a dozen visits to all the satellites of Saturn, of which more than sixty, and sometimes to change the orbit to see pole of the planet and its moons, and then to return to the equator. In addition to gravity, the authors of the teams should consider a limited supply of fuel.
"Can proudly say that "Cassini" from year to year fits the budget with a relatively small health complaints, - continues Mr. Mitchell. - The device enters middle age with traces of past years, but feels well and does not require major surgery".
White paint, smoothly covered the antenna with a higher gain, most likely, became rough to the touch, and "blanket"that protects the body, cut micrometeorites. However, the main technical system still has not lost its strength, and experts expect new megabytes of scientific information.
And this is good since there Cassini another important task. In the Northern hemisphere of Saturn and its satellites spring begins, and experts only start to examine changes caused by changing seasons. For the first time the spacecraft observes like the giant planet.
In November 2016 Cassini will move to an orbit that will lead to Saturn closer than it has ever been. In April 2017 apparatus, flying Titanium, will be within the inner ring, almost next to the upper layers of the atmosphere of Saturn. After 22 such approaches of gravitational perturbation from Titanium rejects Cassini even stronger in the direction of the planet, and September 15, 2017 the machine will enter into its atmosphere. Saturn will take the old friend in his arms, and this will be the last event in the life of Cassini. Earthlings are prepared to probe this end, to protect Enceladus and Titan, which may be life.
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