Todd Barber, Cassini Lead Propulsion Engineer (bio)
Hello again from the realm of Cassini engineering! Even though many of the engineering events of this flyby are now behind us, I wanted to take a minute to say how much the flight teams (science AND engineering) have enjoyed all your wonderful blog comments. We are chomping at the bit for the first data playback in less than three hours, just like you. A lot of hard work and planning went into this daringly close flyby of Enceladus. We hope all our efforts will be rewarded very soon.
As an engineer, I’m looking forward to seeing telemetry that would show we’ve come through the Enceladus flyby safely and successfully. However, as a scientist-wannabe myself, I think I’m more anxiously awaiting the first images and science results from this historic encounter.
Fortunately, my engineering “plate” has been full today, helping the hours and minutes pass more quickly. Even in the midst of this encounter, we have been preparing to open the main-engine cover and execute a roughly 17-second rocket firing on Thursday afternoon PDT. This maneuver will change Cassini’s zippy speed by only 2.76 meters per second, or 6.17 miles per hour, but yet it is critical to set up our next encounter, a 1,000-kilometer (621-mile) Titan flyby on March 25, 2008. Even as we pause briefly to revel in what we hope is the success of our Enceladus rendezvous, the spacecraft always looks forward to the next encounter and a continued flood of science data. Go, Cassini, go!