Homage to Cassini

Sep 20
by Harley White


With rare international cooperation,
Cassini–Huygens took off in the skies.
Thus, in nineteen ninety-seven, the creation
began to develop before our eyes

of the two-decade venture which came to a close
with last gazes at giant Saturn’s face
to merge with its surface in dramatic death throes
as the spacecraft perished with glowing grace.

But before that transpired another splendid boon
was Huygens probe touching down on Titan,
the first landing ever on an alien moon,
whose ripples will astro-knowledge heighten.

The brilliant results of this enterprise of late
extend our grasp of that sphere overall.
(Technically speaking, it’s a spheroid oblate;
to wit, its gas body’s wider than tall.)

In two thousand, there was a Jupiter flyby
that rendered the best depiction till then
of that planet, which a mission would amplify
at a future date, when in Juno’s ken.

During thirteen years, up to twenty seventeen,
after finally getting to Saturn,
Cassini used the forces of Titan unseen
in a gravitative slingshot pattern

to further progress with that great exploration
and also to study the haloings
from various angles that caused a sensation
with images of those glorious rings.

Through our solar system in voyage far afield,
after seven years, in two thousand four
on historic arrival Cassini revealed
the planet Saturn’s enchantments galore

via ongoing data and visual stream
of breathtaking pictures, figures and facts,
that astound even poets who dwell in a dream
and stun starwatchers with awesome impacts.

In this epic Cassini and Saturn romance,
marvels majestic before us unfurl.
We see myriad moons do an intricate dance,
as multi-hued bands round its visage swirl.

One can get lost in the mesmerizing photos
and videoclips of that haunting realm,
along with the chronicles in lyrical prose
which can’t fail to inspire or overwhelm.

Still, of all discoveries Cassini unveiled,
Enceladus was the biggest surprise,
for perchance as habitable it has been hailed
with ocean of water and plumes that rise

from geysers, shooting up, then falling back as snow.
And massive moon Titan’s a contender
with prebiotic chemistry evidence, though
no one knows what those signs might engender.

The elaborate necklace of moons that abound
shows in the ringed Saturnian array
in detailed portraits of the jewels, which surround
the stately planet and are on display

in riveting visions given us to review,
long after Cassini–Huygens is gone,
and elevate our reveries beyond the blue
with legend that shall evermore live on.

While here on our earth, times and climes appeared maddened,
September fifteenth marked its grand goodbye.
Many may be saddened, while others are gladdened
that all went well, as they wistfully sigh.

For the sake of protecting the moon satellites,
a dive into Saturn was planned for it,
plus deorbiting passes to serve as last rites
and the fiery finale which seemed fit.

To anthropomorphize Cassini’s orbiter
and make it sound like a tragic finish,
when Saturn ‘warmly’ would absorb it, er,
should not the outcome’s success diminish.

Cassini answered questions, yet raised a lot more
through wealth of discoveries left behind.
It has shaken numerous notions to the core.
Enceladus and Titan’s oceans find

astronomers curious, wanting to search for
potential life-developing traces,
to go back and investigate what lies in store
in our solar system’s less-known places.

‘Twas telemetry told them the plunge had occurred.
Those poignant cloud tops preceding the drop
warned that Cassini would in Saturn be interred
soon losing contact ere final full stop.

The probe carried out its intentional descent,
for this denouement was always in sight.
On cessation, the scientists at the event
applauded heartily in their delight,

with tears, cheers, and jubilant congratulations,
plus pride in a flawless project complete
of spacecraft that functioned beyond expectations
in monumental engineering feat.

When its thirteen years touring of Saturn were spent,
the bus-sized craft melted and broke apart.
Still, its far-reaching legacy is heaven-sent
with wonders to stir humanity’s heart.

Let us offer our thanks for this noble mission
to NASA, ESA, the team as a whole,
who, bravely embarking on that expedition,
with tireless efforts accomplished their goal!

So, Cassini has come to a bittersweet end.
To some it will feel like losing a friend.

~ Harley White

< September 2017 >

* * * * * * * * *

Saturn Spectacular: NASA’s Free E-Book Offers Top 100 Cassini Images…

So Long, Cassini! Space.com Says Goodbye to the Saturn Probe…

Video ~ Cassini’s Infrared Saturn
This video explores Cassini CIRS’, or Composite Infrared Spectrometer, Greatest Hits, as told by instrument team members Michael Flasar, Conor Nixon, and Carrie Anderson.

RIP, Cassini: Historic Mission Ends with Fiery Plunge into Saturn

On the final orbit, Cassini plunged into Saturn fighting to keep its antenna pointed at Earth as it transmitted its farewell. In the skies of Saturn, the journey ended, as Cassini became part of the planet itself. Watch the full video here…

Composite Image ~ by Kirk W. Wangensteen…

Upper left ~ NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is shown during its Sept. 15, 2017 plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere in this artist’s depiction. Cassini used its thrusters to keep its antenna pointed at Earth for as long as possible while sending back unique data about Saturn’s atmosphere.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Upper right ~ The Cassini spacecraft was the first probe ever to cross between Saturn and its rings.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Lower left ~ This still is from a short computer-animated film that highlights Cassini’s accomplishments and Saturn and reveals the science-packed final orbits between April and September 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Lower right ~ The Cassini spacecraft has plunged into Saturn, sending back its final communications before burning up in the ringed planet’s atmosphere.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


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