Cassini has survived the first dive!

Cassini’s first dive inside the rings has been completed, and the spacecraft has regained contact with Earth, right on schedule.  As I type this, Cassini is busy downlinking data from the close pass via the DSS 43 dish, the largest one at the Deep Space Network’s Canberra, Australia location.  (If you’re ever curious who’s talking to who in deep space, visit NASA’s DSN Now page.)  The reason they were out of contact during the pass was that Cassini was oriented so that the high gain antenna faced into the direction of travel, using the massive dish as a shield.

There’s still considerable data still to be downloaded, but JPL has posted the first images, which are in the vicinity of Saturn’s north pole.  The north pole is home to Saturn’s strange hexagon feature, now seen in greater detail than ever before.  These raw, unprocessed images are just a taste of what will be available when the whole data set is down.

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