Skip to comments.Death of a Spacecraft: The Unknown Fate of Cassini
Posted on 11/25/2006 10:40:01 AM PST by SunkenCiv
Sometime around 2012, Cassini, like the ocean-going ships of old, will need to be decommissioned. However, the spacecraft cannot be towed to some nearby shore to be dismantled; she must either drop anchor, be scuttled, or cast off her gravitational moorings altogether... The third option: raise anchor and escape the Saturn system altogether. Such a maneuver would require numerous flybys of Saturn's largest moon Titan to sling the spacecraft free of the ringed planet's environs. If Cassini were to be cut adrift in this manner, her controllers have two further choices: either bring her sunward or let her escape deeper into the outer solar system.... Cassini's leisurely final journey need not end at Jupiter; rather the giant planet's gravity could fling Cassini into position for an impact on Mercury. Such an impact would provide valuable data on the composition of Mercury's surface and could feasibly occur around 2021 to be observed by the BepiColombo spacecraft. Alternatively, if Cassini were cast into the solar system's outer depths there is a small chance she may provide further scientific reward in the form of a flyby of an outer planet or Kuiper Belt object. "Some very preliminary analysis indicates that this might be possible. However, the flight times involved and the status of spacecraft consumables at that time make anything like this quite an unlikely option," says Mitchell.
(Excerpt) Read more at space.com ...
[it] may provide further scientific reward in the form of a flyby of an outer planet or Kuiper Belt object.
I would vote for bringing Cassini back for a (very) close encounter with Mercury ... in the future, maybe they can even write a play about it ;)
One of the trajectories would slingshot the Cassini probe past Venus, and then end with a collision on Mercury's surface.
Y'know the old saying, one night with Venus, a lifetime with Mercury...
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