Fifteen years ago on this day, July 1st, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft reached the orbit of Saturn. It took 7 years to get there from Earth and it stayed in orbit for 13 years. The orbiter (Cassini) and lander (Huygens), which were named after astromers Giovanni Cassini and Christiaan Huygens, reported back valuable data about the planet, its icy moons and wondrous rings. Its last act of service was known as The Grand Finale. The spacecraft made a flyby of Titan, then dived between Saturn's rings before its final plunge. Intrigued? We got a dvd for that!
Almost everything we know today about the beautiful giant ringed planet comes from Cassini, the NASA mission that launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004. 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. As the mission approaches its final days in 2017, it attempts one last set of daring maneuvers—diving between the innermost ring and the top of Saturn’s atmosphere. Aiming to skim less than 2,000 miles above the cloud tops, no spacecraft has ever gone so close to Saturn and hopes are high for incredible observations that could solve major mysteries about the planet’s core. But such a daring maneuver comes with many risks. Join NASA engineers for the tense and triumphant moments as they find out if their gambit has paid off, and discover the wonders that Cassini has revealed over the years.