Cassini Makes Titan and Dione Double Flyby

PASADENA, Calif., April 13 (UPI) — The U.S. space agency says its Cassini spacecraft successfully completed a double flyby this week of Saturn’s moons Titan and Dione.

NASA scientists said Cassini sent back what were described as “stunning raw images of fractured terrain and craters big and small on Dione, a moon that had only been visited once before by Cassini.”

The Titan flyby occurred April 5, and the Dione flyby took place April 7. During the Titan flyby, an unexpected autonomous reset occurred and Cassini obtained fewer images than expected. But the cameras were reset before reaching Dione, which was the primary target of the double flyby.

NASA said it’s particularly interested in determining whether Dione might be a source of charged particles found in the environment around Saturn and in material in one of its rings.

“A fortuitous alignment of these moons allowed Cassini to attempt this doubleheader,” the space agency said in a statement. “Cassini had made three previous double flybys and another two are planned in the years ahead. The mission is nearing the end of its first extension, known as the Equinox Mission. It will begin its second mission extension, known as the Solstice Mission, in October.”

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA and the European and Italian space agencies. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the mission for NASA.

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