Cassini Lead Propulsion Engineer (bio)
Early Halloween greetings from sunny Pasadena, California!
That was a quick few weeks to catch our collective breaths since Cassini’s daring and successful plunge near Enceladus a few weeks ago. Scientists are still grinning profusely from the treasure trove of data from that stunning close approach, largely interpreting in situ measurements of Enceladus’ perplexing plumes. However, as I mentioned last time, this rendezvous with Saturn’s icy satellite is mostly about imaging. Even though the closest approach distance is about eight times higher than our last flyby, imaging is not performed right at closest approach, anyway, so the pictures promise to be spectacular, as always. I can’t wait to see the fruits of our labors!
As always, I’m privileged to provide a maneuver status report a few days before the flyby. This morning, Cassini dutifully fired its small Reaction Control System (RCS) thrusters for about 191 seconds to nail flybys of not only Enceladus on Halloween but Titan three days later as well. Talk about a scientific doubleheader! The burn this morning went quite well, changing the speed of the spacecraft by about 0.23 meters per second (0.51 mph). We will execute a routine Reaction Wheel Assembly (RWA) bias tomorrow, but then it will be time for engineering to hand off the spacecraft to science.
I can’t think of a better way to ring in Halloween—exploring a ghostly white, mysterious, active moon of Saturn nearly one billion miles from planet Earth. May Enceladus show us no tricks and only provide us scientific treats!