BEACON TRANSCRIPT – On September 15th, Cassini ended its 20-year-old mission by plunging into the atmosphere of Saturn and disappearing forever. Or at least that’s what we thought. NASA returned with news on the spacecraft, and revealed a piece of it managed to survive the deadly jump, and it’s currently floating around in space.
Cassini lost a piece of its aluminum shell before reaching Saturn
Cassini was covered in all kinds of instruments which helped with the analysis of Saturn and its surrounding objects. Among them, there was a Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA), which had an aluminum protective surface. However, in 1997, Cassini get rid of this shell.
The CDA remained attached to the spacecraft, as it was capable of studying the small dust particles present in Saturn’s rings. It seems the shell prevented it from its analysis, so this is why the spacecraft had to dispose of it. This means it never got to reach Saturn, so it never burned in its atmosphere.
People are now eager to see the lost Cassini piece and have it back on Earth
This led to a lot of excitement from everyone, who is now curious to find out where this aluminum shell might be hiding. NASA assumes the object must be performing an orbit just like the one done by our planet. On this orbit, it is probably traveling at an average speed of 19 miles per second. Given these conditions, the object is probably quite bright, so a strong telescope might spot it. However, NASA has no idea where it might be floating, and has never seen it.
The enthusiasts of the Cassini mission probably wish that NASA should recover the lost piece of Cassini and bright it back to Earth. However, this would take a lot of efforts, both financial and scientific. It would be almost impossible to locate the piece of aluminum, and bringing it back and placing it into a museum would require too many resources.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons