11,000 sal­mon lost in fish farm es­cape

Yorkshire Post - - NEWS -

A PI­O­NEER­ING space­craft that has trans­formed knowl­edge of Saturn and its moons has ended its mis­sion with a spec­tac­u­lar sui­cide dive into the ringed planet’s at­mos­phere.

The Amer­i­can space agency Nasa car­ried out the de­struc­tion of Cassini to bring to a close what it called “a thrilling epoch” in space ex­plo­ration.

For 13 years, the 22ft nu­cle­ar­pow­ered probe had been gath­er­ing a trea­sure trove of images and data from the Satur­nian sys­tem.

At 12.55pm UK time yes­ter­day, all com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the craft was lost as Cassini tum­bled to its doom 930 miles above Saturn’s cloud tops. Plum­met­ing at 77,000mph, it took less than a minute to dis­in­te­grate into frag­ments and burn up.

Mis­sion con­trollers at Nasa’s Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory in Pasadena, Cal­i­for­nia, clapped and hugged each other when the end of ra­dio con­tact was con­firmed.

Sci­en­tists talked of “bit­ter­sweet” emo­tions, both sad­ness at Cassini’s loss and in­tense pride in what they had achieved.

Cassini project man­ager Dr Earl Maize, who di­rected Cassini’s fi­nal mo­ments from the Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory (JPL) con­trol room in Pasadena, said: “The Cassini op­er­a­tions team did an ab­so­lutely stel­lar job guid­ing the space­craft to its noble end. What a way to go. Truly a blaze of glory.”

Project sci­en­tist Dr Linda Spilker added: “Things never will be quite the same for those of us on the Cassini team now that the space­craft is no longer fly­ing. But we take com­fort know­ing that ev­ery time we look up at Saturn in the night sky, part of Cassini will be there, too.”

The de­ci­sion to kill off Cassini was taken be­cause the craft would soon run out of fuel and be­come im­pos­si­ble to steer.

Sci­en­tists feared a col­li­sion with Ti­tan or Ence­ladus, two of Saturn’s moons that in the past 10 years have shown a po­ten­tial to host sim­ple life. Safe dis­posal of Cassini was seen as the best way to avoid the re­mote pos­si­bil­ity of con­tam­i­nat­ing the pris­tine moons with Earth bugs.

The space­craft, launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida in 1997, took seven years to reach Saturn and was orig­i­nally in­tended to ex­plore the planet and its moons for just three years.

In the end its life was ex­tended by an­other decade.

One of Cassini’s most im­por­tant dis­cov­er­ies was the ex­is­tence of a global wa­tery ocean un­der the icy sur­face of Ence­ladus that could con­ceiv­ably har­bour life. Cassini has also dis­cov­ered seven new moons, six of which have been named, ob­served rag­ing storms on Saturn and shed new light on the planet’s fa­mous rings.

River work­ers have ex­pressed con­cern for the pu­rity of wild sal­mon in Ar­gyll and Bute af­ter a fish farm es­cape led to 11,000 farmed fish en­ter­ing rivers.

The es­cape was from a Scot­tish Sal­mon Com­pany farm at Geas­gill on Mull.

Greg Marsh, of the Scot­tish Game­keep­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, said: “What ef­fect is this go­ing to have on the wild fish? What will fish­eries be of­fer­ing in three or four years’ time? Fish of un­known ge­netic pu­rity.”

He said fish farms needed to take se­cu­rity more se­ri­ously.

The Cassini space­craft which had probed the Saturn and its moons for the last 13 years was yes­ter­day de­stroyed as Nasa sci­en­tists crashed it into the ringed planet’s at­mos­phere; mis­sion con­trollers hugged each other when the end of ra­dio con­tact was con­firmed.

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