Apr 28, 2017 09:51 AM EDT
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Cassini spacecraft is now within reach of communication satellites. It has been out of contact since April 26 due to a "daredevil" maneuver in Saturn.
According to BBC, NASA was able to re-establish communication lines on Thursday through the 70-meter-wide Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California. Wednesday's maneuver was actually the first of 22 more plunges planned over the next five months. Thus, more signal disruptions will happen.
The close-in dives are done to collect "ultra-high" quality data. Actually, the photos of the Saturn rings could pick out features as small as 150m across at their best resolutions. It was dubbed as a "daredevil" move because of the velocity at which Cassini is moving towards the planet. It is estimated to be at 110,000 km/h.
At that particular speed, an impact with a tiny ice or rock particle could be catastrophic. For that reason, the spacecraft activates its big radio dish positioned in front of it to act as a shield, This is exactly why it cannot talk to Earth during the process.
Dr. Earl Maize, Cassini's program manager, said in earlier media interviews that "no other spacecraft" has ever been this close to Saturn. He also expressed his delight about the successful dive, saying the spacecraft "came out the other side in excellent shape." The next maneuver is immediately scheduled on Tuesday as the spacecraft's fuel reserves will not last much longer.
Meanwhile, Phys.org reported that the gap between the rings of Saturn is about 1,500 miles or 2, 000 kilometers wide. Consequently, the radio dish measures around 13 feet or four meters across. The space agency calls the gap runs as the "grand finale" of the mission. Through it, scientists hope to know the composition, structure, and dynamics of the atmosphere of Saturn as well as information about its rings.
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