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Cassini NASA
15 October, 2017

Farewell Cassini spacecraft and thank you

Launched nearly 20 years ago, and in orbit around Saturn since 2004, Cassini is now on its final approach into the planet for a fiery sign-off.

The not-so-little guy will succumb to Saturn’s atmosphere at 8:31pm AEST on Friday 15 September, with the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex receiving the very last transmissions 83 minutes later at 9:54pm AEST (Saturn is a loooong way away…).

Where to watch NASA’s farewell to Cassini live

NASA will say farewell to the Cassini spacecraft just before 10pm AEST, 8pm WST tonight. Here’s where you can watch:

Eyes on Cassini from the Canberra Deep Space Network

NASA will live stream the loss of signal and mission completed from JPL on Youtube

While no amazing or dramatic footage of the event is possible, much like watching the Mars Rover landing live, it’s likely you’ll get some sense of the overwhelming pride of so many spacenerds scientists in what has been a decades-long pioneering and research achievement.

Looking back at Cassini and AARNet

One of the early scientific uses of AARNet’s trans-Pacific international SXTransPORT links (operated with the generous support of Southern Cross Cable Network) took place in January 2005. Data from the Huygens probe descending by parachute to the surface of Titan from the Cassini spacecraft was transmitted from Sydney to Hawaii on to Seattle and from there to Europe via Canada.

AARNet and the CSIRO’s Australian Telescope National Facility then became partners in a major European project called Express Production Real-time e-VLBI (very long baseline interferometry) service, also known as EXPReS and its successor NEXPReS, lasting over 6 years.

This and subsequent e-VLBI demonstrations linking radio telescopes in real-time in Australia, China and Europe in 2007 and 17 radio telescopes across the world in 2009, helped to demonstrate Australia’s technological capacity to host the Square Kilometre Array.

Here are a couple of articles from 2005 that mention AARNet’s role in connecting the Australian ground stations that followed the Huygen’s probe down to the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan.

Australian telescopes ready for historic space mission (CSIRO, 12 January 2005)

This way to Parkes, then dataway (Sydney Morning Herald, 25 January 2005)

Excerpt: In Sydney, the data travels from CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility in Marsfield via dedicated gigabit ethernet to the University of Technology Sydney. The data then transverses the Southern Cross Cable to Seattle, an optical link to Amsterdam and another dedicated gigabit ethernet link to JIVE. The first two 13-minute scans of data were transmitted to JIVE at 500 megabits per second. “This is the first time, as far as astronomy is concerned, that we’ve moved such a large amount of data over a short period to be used this way,” says AARNet director of international development George McLaughlin.

Read more about NASA’s farewell to Cassini

Watch NASA’s short film Cassini’s Grand Finale

Image: In the still from the short film Cassini's Grand Finale, the spacecraft is shown diving between Saturn and the planet's innermost ring. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech