Every Wednesday at 9:30 PM, a talented crew roleplays their way to fulfill their mission and boldly go where no one has gone before. Join the adventures of the USS Sally Ride on Shield of Tomorrow on Twitch.
Exploration is a key component to any Star Trek series. Last Friday, we said goodbye to one of our most prolific and loyal explorers. The Cassini space probe went through what NASA called its Grand Finale after 13 years of service. The probe exceeded expectations and its mission by several years. It transmitted data back to Earth that will be valuable for decades to come as we continue to explore space. For those wondering why things got so emotional on social media over a robot, here are four important things to know about the space probe.
1. Cassini’s Full Name Was Cassini-Huygens
The Cassini-Huygens space probe was named after two influential scientists who made huge discoveries related to Saturn. Giovanni Domenico Cassini discovered four of Saturn’s moons (Iapetus, Rhea, Tethys and Dione) and a division between Saturn’s rings that were named after him. Christiaan Huygens discovered the moon Titan. NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency collaborated on launching Cassini-Huygens on October 15, 1997. Over 260 scientists from 27 countries were part of the mission.
2. Cassini Visited Other Planets In The Solar System
While Saturn was always the main target, the probe visited other places in our Solar System on the way out. It flew by Venus in 1998 and 1999, Earth in 1999 and Jupiter in 2000. It even flew by 2685 Masursky, an asteroid in the main belt.
3. Cassini Was Sent On A Four Year Mission That Lasted 13
Cassini’s original mission was supposed to last between 2004 and 2008. It arrived in orbit on July 1st, 2004. It dropped the Huygens lander off on Titan in 2005. The lander sent data back to Earth using Cassini as a relay. Cassini’s initial mission was to gather data on Saturn from orbit as well as the moons nearest to the planet. The mission was extended twice, each time allowing for the probe to gather more data on Saturn and its moons. The craft even detected seven new moons while in orbit.
4. Cassini Was Destroyed on Purpose
Because it outlasted its original mission by so long, the probe didn’t have enough fuel to break its orbit of Saturn. Rather than run the risk of the probe contaminating a moon with Earth microbes by crashing into it and influencing the potential for life on another world, the Cassini probe was directed to take a few more daring photos of the rings before being sent into the planet on a trajectory that would burn it up.
In case you’re wondering how far from home Cassini was, here’s an image of our entire planet taken by the craft.
We are that bright dot in the center.
If you’re ready to catch Star Trek Adventures in action (albeit in the 24th century), the crew of the USS Sally Ride flies every Wednesday at 9:30 PM PT on Twitch.
Feature Image Credits: NASA (Fair Use)
Image Credits: NASA/JPL (Fair Use)
Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He writes about kaiju, Jedi, gangsters, elves and is a writer for the Star Trek Adventures RPG line. His blog is here, his Twitter is here and his meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.