Oz trackers farewell Cassini
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