After nearly seven years of space travel, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft will arrive at Saturn on June 30. In a maneuver called orbit insertion, Cassini will slow itself down to enter into orbit around the ringed planet. NASA TV will cover JPL mission control as it communicates with the spacecraft during this critical phase of the mission.
Highlights of Orbit Insertion:
(All times are approximate and listed in Pacific Time)
6:10 p.m. PDT- Spacecraft turns so its high-gain antenna can shield the craft from particles as it crosses Saturn's ring plane.
7:36 p.m. PDT- Engine begins burn, which will slow spacecraft down so it can be captured by Saturn's gravity. Burn lasts approximately 96 minutes.
8:54 p.m. PDT- Cassini captured in Saturn orbit.
9:03 p.m. PDT- Closest approach to Saturn of entire mission: 19,980 kilometers (12,400 miles) from Saturn's cloud tops.
9:12 p.m. PDT to
9:22 p.m. PDT- Engine burn ends.
9:35 p.m. PDT- Spacecraft begins to take pictures of Saturn's rings.
*If everything proceeds as planned, first images are expected July 1, at approximately 5 a.m. PDT.