Oz track­ers farewell Cassini

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Ed­die Cock­rell

Yes­ter­day, af­ter two decades in space, the Cassini space­craft made its fi­nal ap­proach to the planet Saturn. Hav­ing ex­pended al­most ev­ery bit of the rocket pro­pel­lant it car­ried to the mas­sive sixth planet, op­er­a­tors de­lib­er­ately plunged Cassini into the gas giant to en­sure its moons would re­main pris­tine for fu­ture ex­plo­ration.

This Tues­day, the ABC will be screen­ing the ABC/BBC co-pro­duced doc­u­men­tary Death Dive: Into the Rings of Saturn, cap­tur­ing not just this re­mark­able event, but also Aus­tralia’s sub­stan­tial in­volve­ment.

Our po­si­tion on the planet rel­a­tive to Saturn pro­vides a grip­ping story rem­i­nis­cent of The Dish: the fi­nal moments of Cassini’s ra­dio sig­nals be­fore it frag­ments into Saturn’s rings will be re­ceived by the Can­berra Deep Space Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Com­plex at Tid­bin­billa. The dive of the probe will be cov­ered live by Swin­burne Univer­sity as­tronomer as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor Alan Duffy.

As well as study­ing dark mat­ter, dark en­ergy, galaxy for­ma­tion and cos­mol­ogy, Duffy is a charis­matic pres­ence, adeptly ex­plain­ing the com­plex sci­ence in­volved in Cassini’s demise in lay­man’s terms.

Cassini’s fi­nal moments will be emo­tional for all con­cerned: not just for astronomers such as Alan, but the tech­ni­cians and sci­en­tists at Tid­bin­billa, for whom the decades spent track­ing the craft rep­re­sent a large part of their ca­reers.

Set against the in-the-mo­ment ex­pe­ri­ence of Cassini’s con­trolled de­mo­li­tion is the story of how the mis­sion came to be, thanks to the pas­sion, bril­liance and per­se­ver­ance of some of the planet’s great­est space ex­plor­ers — the men and women of NASA, the Euro­pean Space Agency and ASI, the Ital­ian Space Agency.

Cat­a­lyst: Death Dive: Into the Rings of Saturn,

Tues­day, 8.30pm, ABC and ABC iView.

As­tronomer Alan Duffy adeptly ex­plains the com­plex sci­ence in­volved in Cassini’s demise in lay­man’s terms

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