Chair Force Engineer

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Killing Cassini

While the Cassini spacecraft's mission to Saturn will probably last past 2010, NASA is already weighing its options for disposing of the planetary probe once the mission is complete.

Personally, I'm partial to casting Cassini on a trajectory that will take it as far from our sun as possible. If the RTG holds up (and I assume it will,) Cassini can still make useful contributions to astronomy by flying through the Kuiper Belt and beyond, much like the Voyagers and Pioneer 10 & 11. Perhaps, in the distant future, some wayward spacefarer will find Cassini and ask what civilization built and flew it so many years ago. It's "V Ger Two" all over again.

I do find it funny, though, that NASA has no apparent qualms against slamming Cassini into Mercury. I thought that the agency was committed to planetary protection from contamination. They probably figure that nothing could possibly live on hellish Mercury, so there's no justification for keeping the planet uncontaminated.