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US3 Media

Cassini and future perspectives for the exploration of the outer solar system
Convener: Stephanie C. Werner  | Co-Convener: Özgür Karatekin 
 / Thu, 12 Apr, 08:30–12:00

The Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn has been an exemplary opportunity to the success expected from a large space mission built on international collaboration with ambitious goals. During 13 years, Cassini-Huygens has returned a huge amount of data that have been analysed and interpreted to enhance our understanding of the Saturnian system as a whole and not only (the investigations have bearing to our own planet and the formation of the Solar System as a whole). The mission ended in a dramatic plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere on September 15, 2017 sending back in-situ data as long as possible. The final year of the mission included 20 “Ring-Grazing” orbits just outside the rings and a series of 22 highly inclined “Grand Finale” orbits with closest approach between the innermost D ring and Saturn’s upper atmosphere. During the last half orbit, Cassini’s in-situ instruments were configured to collect atmospheric data until spacecraft signal was lost. Both mission phases enabled the opportunity for unique science observations including: probing of gravitational and magnetic field moments to higher order and precision; determining the ring mass; in-situ sampling of the plasma environment, upper atmosphere and exosphere; and imaging both Saturn and rings at high resolution. Already data obtained on these orbits have led to surprising initial results. This Union Session will feature reports on the amazing discoveries that this mission brought and the new understanding we have gained of the Saturnian system.