CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has survived an unprecedented trip between Saturn and its rings, and has amazing pictures to show for it.
Flight controllers regained contact with Cassini on Thursday, a day after it became the first craft to cross this hazardous region. The rings are comprised of countless icy particles, any of which could have smacked Cassini. The spacecraft’s big dish antenna served as a shield as it hurtled through the narrow gap, temporarily cutting off communications.
Cassini skimmed 1,900 miles (3,100 kilometers) above Saturn’s cloud tops, closer than ever before, and came within 200 miles (320 kilometers) of the innermost visible ring. Scientists say the pictures show details never seen before.
Twenty-one more crossings are planned – about one a week – before Cassini’s fatal plunge in September.
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