The National Aeronautics and Space Administration probe Cassini on Monday flew to within 1,20,000 km of its giant moon Titan, correcting its course enough to set it up for a collision with Saturn's atmosphere, BBC reported. Since then, the spacecraft has been beaming home miraculous images and scientific data, revealing countless wonders about the planet, its rings, and 62 moons-including some that could harbor life.
The spacecraft made its closest approach to Titan today at 12:04 p.m. PDT (3:04 p.m. EDT), at an altitude of 73,974 miles (119,049 kilometers) above the moon's surface.
The Cassini has scheduled to make contact with earth on September 12 as per NASA at about 6:19 pm PDT (9:19 pm EDT).
The distant encounter is referred to as the "goodbye kiss" by mission engineers, since it provides a gravitational nudge that sends the spacecraft toward its dramatic ending in Saturn's upper atmosphere.
Just a few days before it is due to plummet into the fiery atmosphere of Saturn on its self-destruct mission, Cassini has completed its final flyby of the moon Titan.
On Friday, the 15 September, Cassini will send itself into Saturn, nearly 20 years since it left Earth.
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It is quite apt that Cassini will use Titan for its final plunge because, in its 13 years orbiting Saturn, Cassini's observations of Titan have revealed the moon to be one of the most interesting bodies in our solar system.
"Cassini has been in a long-term relationship with Titan, with a new rendezvous almost every month for more than a decade", Cassini project manager Earl Maize, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement.
That death dive was planned because Cassini is running out of fuel, and the spacecraft's handlers want to make sure the probe is disposed of properly before they lose control of it.
In the mission Grand Finale, the fateful spacecraft dive is the final beat, 22 weekly dives through the gap within Saturn and its rings.
When the spacecraft arrived at Saturn in 2004, the planet's northern hemisphere, seen at the top here, was in darkness, just beginning to emerge from winter.