Goodbye, Cassini

I met Cassini in 1996 at JPL before it departed for Saturn. For 20 years I have cheered its mission. That mission is over, and Cassini’s watch has ended.

I posted this six years ago here at haibane, but it’s worth reposting in salute: an incredible compilation of a flyby of the Saturnian system:

5.6k Saturn Cassini Photographic Animation from stephen v2 on Vimeo.

astounding Cassini video flyby of Saturn’s rings and moons

(UPDATE: credit due, via Mark. Who acounts for a disturbingly large number of my “neato lookit” posts of late.)

This is incredible – a digital compilation of images from the Cassini probe, no CGI or animation, assembled into incredible breathtaking flybys of the Saturn system. The best part os the third, final sequence where we flyby Titan, Mimas, pass thru the ring-plane, and swoop past Enceladus.

5.6k Saturn Cassini Photographic Animation from stephen v2 on Vimeo.

I’ve a photo of me from 1996 as a visitor to JPL (where my friend’s dad worked) in front of the Cassini heat shield. I really need to dig that up… Let’s also remember that the controversy about Cassini being nuclear powered was totally bogus, and use that as a data point for why nuclear power is not the ultimate bugaboo that people assume it to be after the still-unfolding tradegy and disaster in Japan.

hydrazine, huh?

As I mentioned to Steven in comments to the previous post about the pending satellite shoot-em-up, I don’t buy the argument that the hydrazine in the fuel tanks is a real threat. The Cassini-Huygens probe carried plutonium aboard as a fuel source and I recall the crazies all worried it would somehow contaminate the earth if it crashed or failed on liftoff; why would hydrazine be such a big deal? A satellite coming uncontrolled down from space has only 30% chance of hitting land to begin with, and the actual populated areas of Earth where you might conceivably land on someone (ie, dense urban areas, not suburbs, farmland, desert, jungle, etc) are an even smaller target. The risk has to be infinitesimal.

So i am not surprised at all to see that there might be an ulterior motive – to show the Chinese we can.