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September 11, 2017 - Spacecraft Sacrifice

Spacecraft Sacrifice  After more than thirteen years spent orbiting Saturn, the Cassini spacecraft will end its historic mission this week with a controlled plunge into the ringed planet’s atmosphere. This fiery end is necessary because once Cassini’s maneuvering fuel runs out, it might end up crashing into—and inadvertently contaminating with earthly microbes—Enceladus or Titan, two Saturnian moons that are believed to have environments suitable for life. This cutaway illustration of Enceladus depicts possible hydrothermal activity that may be taking place on and under the sea floor of the moon’s ocean, which is trapped beneath a shell of ice. Europa is a prime target for future searches for life in the solar system because it has abundant sources of water, complex organic molecules, and a source of heat.

Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Weekly Calendar

September 11-17, 2017

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History

 

Moon phase Monday 11

1877: James Jeans born
1985: International Cometary Explorer satellite probes Comet Giacobini-Zinner (first comet flyby)
1997: Mars Global Surveyor arrives at Mars

Moon phase Tuesday 12

Mercury at greatest elongation (18° W)
Aldebaran 0.4° south of Moon

1959: Luna 2 launched
1966: Gemini XI launched
1970: Luna 16 launched
1991: STS-48 Discovery launched
1992: STS-47 Endeavour launched
1993: STS-51 Discovery launched

Moon phase Wednesday 13

Last Qtr Moon 2:25 AM ET
Moon at perigee

1977: Second glide test of Space Shuttle Enterprise
1978: Venera 12 launched

Moon phase Thursday 14

1966: Gemini XI, docked with Agena booster rocket, reaches 850-mile-high orbit

Moon phase Friday 15

1965: “Lost in Space” premieres
1968: Zond 5 launched, first circumlunar spaceflight with living creatures (tortoises)
2016: Tiangong-2 space station launched
2017: Cassini mission ends with planned entry into Saturn’s atmosphere

Moon phase Saturday 16

Mercury 0.06° north of Mars

1848: First observation of Hyperion, moon of Saturn
1996: STS-79 Atlantis launched

Moon phase Sunday 17

Venus 0.5° north of Moon

1789: William Herschel discovers Mimas
1857: Konstantin Tsiolkovsky born
1930: Ed Mitchell born
1959: First powered flight of X-15
1976: First rollout of space shuttle Enterprise

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.