The Cassini spacecraft made its 59th flyby of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, on Friday, July 24, and in the last few hours we have received images from the RADAR instrument in SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) mode.
Each Titan flyby is not a fork in the road, but rather a Los Angeles style cloverleaf in terms of the dizzying number of possible destinations. So how did our current and future plans for the path of the Cassini spacecraft come to be? That's the question Dave Seal put to me since that's my job -- I am a tour designer.
Saturn is rapidly approaching equinox, where the Sun passes through the ring plane (south-to-north, i.e. the northern vernal equinox), and its ring system (i.e. its great now-gloomy poorly-lit circles of large blocks of water ice) is starting to show some really interesting behavior.
It seems like no time since we selected Cassini's extended mission tour of the Saturn system, in early 2007. Now we're flying that tour, which extends Cassini's original four years in Saturn orbit for another 27 months, until September 2010. So now we're looking into the future- far into the future.