|A still from a short animated film depicting Cassini’s passage between the cloudtops of Saturn and the giant planet’s innermost rings. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech|
Definition: "suicide flier," 1945, Japanese, literally "divine wind," from kami "god, providence, divine" (see kami) + kaze "wind." Originally the name given in folklore to a typhoon which saved Japan from Mongol invasion by wrecking Kublai Khan's fleet (August 1281). Dictionary.com
Running low on fuel, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has begun the final — and most daring — phase of its epic mission to Saturn.
After using a final flyby of the moon Titan on Friday to boost its speed, Cassini was flung by the moon's gravity to a trajectory that sent it diving through the 1,200-mile (1,930 kilometers) gap between the planet's upper atmosphere and innermost rings, NASA officials said.
Cassini completed the first crossing of the ring plane at about 2 a.m. PDT (5 a.m. EDT, or 0900 GMT) Wednesday, the space agency said in a statement.
This final journey will end Sept. 15 when the spacecraft burns up in Saturn's crushing atmosphere. There is no turning back now; Cassini is on a "ballistic trajectory," and its fate is sealed, NASA scientists have said. The Grand Finale has been designed to prevent the spacecraft from contaminating the potentially habitable Saturnian moons.
September 15 would be Mildred Dean Goodwin's 92 birthday if she were still here. I'll be sure to commemorate it. I think this would make her smile.
NASA's Cassini Mission Conducts Daring Dive through Saturn's Rings, Ian O'Neill