Here’s a nicely processed-and-polished photo of Saturn’s moon Prometheus, fresh from the Cassini imaging center at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, CO. Taken during the spacecraft’s flyby of the F-ring’s shepherd moon earlier this year, this image shows Prometheus’ potato-like shape and heavily cratered surface on its trailing side, dimly illuminated by reflected light from Saturn.
See the official image release here.
Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Does NASA have the ability to “steer” Cassini? I am wondering if it’s course was preset and left to orbit, or if they fear it’s going to collide with something they can get it to change orbit.
(sorry, dumb question time)
Yes, the controllers on the Cassini team at JPL (NASA’s workhorse for all this robotic exploration stuff in Pasadena) can pre-program Cassini to be wherever they want around Saturn. They use the gravity of the moons and planet to make positioning use as little power as possible, so it’s a constant juggling act but since the orbits and size of all the moons are known, they can plan pretty far ahead. Now if some bit of space rock comes whizzing towards it (god forbid!) they probably wouldn’t know until it was too late. But barring that, there’s plenty of room around Saturn to travel safely.
As I have said many many times, I would so love to be a molecule (with huge eyeballs) clinging to Cassini’s surface and riding around with it.
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