An unmanned NASA spacecraft, Cassini, is poised to plunge into the gap between Saturn and its rings — a pioneering journey that could offer an unprecedented view of the sixth planet from the Sun.
The first of the spaceship’s 22 deep dives between Saturn and its innermost ring is scheduled for April 26 at 5:00 am Eastern Time (0900 GMT), NASA said.
Then comes a nail-biting wait.
Communications with the spacecraft will go dark during the dive and for about a day afterward, while it makes scientific observations of the planet.
If Cassini survives the trip, it could make radio contact with Earth as early as 3:05 am ET (0705 GMT) on April 27.
“Images and other data are expected to begin flowing in shortly after communication is established,” NASA said.
Cassini is a 20-year-old joint mission of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency. The 22-foot-tall (6.7 meter) spacecraft launched in 1997 and began orbiting Saturn in 2004.
Cassini is running low on fuel, and will make a death plunge into Saturn’s surface on September 15.