The Cassini mission is the longest-lived orbiter flying beyond Earth. We are now just days away from its end. I will be at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for Cassini's last three days, keeping vigil over it as I did for Rosetta last year. If you're a member of the media who will also be at JPL this week, I'd like to hear from you.
One chart I made that may be useful to people not in California for the end-of-mission event: a visual timeline with times reported in Universal Time, UTC:
NASA / JPL / Emily Lakdawalla
Cassini end-of-mission visual timeline (UTC)
Timeline for events at the end of the Cassini mission using Universal Time Coordinate (UTC), with conversions for several local time zones.
Cassini time at Saturn
Event time on Earth
Final passage between rings and Saturn Middle of Rev 292. Closest approach to Saturn is 1680 km above cloud tops. Cameras shoot a movie of rings from between rings and Saturn.
9 Sep 00:08
Data downlink begins Data from final Grand Finale dive
9 Sep 13:07
9 Sep 07:29
9 Sep 10:29
9 Sep 14:29
Final distant Titan flyby Closest approach to Titan is 119,049 km above surface. Lots of imaging planned, looking for clouds and mapping lakes. Final RADAR observation will measure altitude across small north polar lakes.
11 Sep 19:04
Apoapse End Rev 292, begin Rev 293 (final Rev). 1.3 million km from Saturn.
Final image taken On September 13 and 14, Cassini will take its last wide-angle mosaic of Saturn and its rings. It will watch Enceladus set behind Saturn. It will look for clouds on a half-phase Titan. It will observe "Peggy," a clump of material at the edge of the A ring. It will observe propellers in the rings. Then VIMS will observe the future impact site, which will be on Saturn's night side.
14 Sep 19:58
Begin continuous data downlink Cassini will transmit from now until the end of mission. Goldstone is initially the receiving station.
14 Sep 20:22
14 Sep 14:45
14 Sep 17:45
14 Sep 21:45
Final images expected to appear online Time is approximate.
14 Sep 20:00
14 Sep 23:00
15 Sep 03:00
Data downlink continues at Canberra
14 Sep 20:15
14 Sep 23:15
15 Sep 03:15
Cassini passes orbital distance of Enceladus 238,020 km from Saturn's center
15 Sep 05:08
Cassini rolls The roll will take 5 minutes. It points INMS toward Saturn.
15 Sep 07:14
Real-time transmission begins Cassini reconfigures from an orbiter to an atmospheric probe, beginning to relay all data to Earth as it is aquired at 27 kilobits per second, with a 2-3 second latency.
15 Sep 07:14
15 Sep 01:37
15 Sep 04:37
15 Sep 08:37
Cassini passes orbital distance of F ring 140,180 km from Saturn's center