Yesterday (April 26, 2017) NASA’s spacecraft, Cassini, flew shockingly close to Saturn. It has since sent us some amazing photos of the planet. This gives great insight into the weather patterns of the ringed planet that we could only speculate on before. It was so close that it went between the planet and the rings that make it so famous.

The mission

The mission involving the spacecraft Cassini has been going for more than 19 years. It was launched on October 15th, 1997, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Its mission was to fly all the way out to Saturn, to gather information about the planet and several moons.

One of the most interesting things it's there to do is investigate the possibility of life on several moons. These moons, specifically Enceladus, are thought to potentially have life.

Some of Cassini's mission objectives include orbiting Titan, one of Saturn's many moons. It will also make a series of daring maneuvers like the one made yesterday. NASA hopes that the information received from the spacecraft can shed light on the many unanswered questions on the ringed planet and its numerous moons. It also hopes to inspire more people to learn about our solar system, and all the interesting things in it.

One of the mysteries NASA hopes to get more information about is why Saturn spins at the rate it does.

By mapping out magnetic and gravitational fields, scientist hope to find a theory to explain this strange behavior.

How close did Cassini get?

Cassini flew less than 2,000 miles over Saturn, and about 200 miles away from the rings. This is some tight flying, and the pictures that it sent back were well worth it. The first pictures sent back were just black and white, and also quite grainy.

It is typical that NASA will work on adding color and extra detail for publishing purposes. It is truly amazing that the spacecraft was able to maneuver so precisely to achieve these shots.

Earl Maize of NASA said in a statement, "I am delighted to report that Cassini shot through the gap just as we planned and has come out the other side in excellent shape." It is truly a marvel of engineering and the human desire to explore.

What is going to be Cassini ultimate fate?

With the possibility of life on several of the moons around Saturn, NASA wants to ensure that the spacecraft does not do any ecological damage if there is life out there. To avoid potential contamination, Cassini is going to finish its journey by crashing into Saturn. The “Grand Finale,” as it is referred to on NASA’s website dedicated to the mission, is set to occur on September 15th, 2017.