Saturn Suicide

It’s been four years since I’ve had to change my flight from Los Angeles to Cologne. Reason being that my Master thesis on particle therapy wasn’t so well received by my secondary professor. She failed me, hence my primary professor preferred to slap a fail across my work rather than jeopardize my overall A-average. Errr… thanks?! I still call bullsh!t since the secondary prof seemed to have had a problem with my person and my preference of US-American over British English, but this is not what this mission is about. We don’t hold grudges, no! We complain, we fight, we sit down, we do it again, and we shine. At least that alternative worked pretty well for me; and my primary prof did make damn sure I was taken care of this time around.

My new flight was in July of 2014, right before my oral defense. My new thesis carried the prominent title “Translation of selected texts from English to German about the exploration of the Saturn system by the Cassini space probe with a factual comment about the current state of the mission”. I leafed through my papers on the plane, double-checked my facts and tried to get some shut-eye before landing. My parents had frantically printed my thesis (the US has different paper formats than what was required from by German University… plus, I had a full-time job and no vacation days… my parents truly saved me). They did, however, have to do it twice since I didn’t pass the first one – so the second time around, they already knew the drill.

Cassini and its buddy probe Huygens were smoothly projected into space on October 15, 1997. On that date, I was 15 years old and had just finished my first year in High School in Connecticut. I barely spoke English. I was a sulky teenager. And people explored space. The tandem was launched from Cape Canaveral… only an hour away from where I am now. I should really go and visit. It took seven years for Cassini to reach its final Saturn-orbit-home. Seven years! It is an unmanned mission – no human being on board to repair the sophisticated technological “gadgets”. It has been nearly twenty years and it is absolutely baffling to me how ESA, NASA and ASI were able to invent such a genius and long-lasting probe ensemble.

Cassini is now on its suicide mission, meaning its last months of recording data and photos, flying in and out of Saturn’s rings. Huygens had landed on Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005 and its last contact to earth was on January 15 of the same year. Cassini’s very last plunge (to death) into Saturn’s atmosphere will take place on September 15 of this year. In the meantime, it is still alive and kicking and attempting a series of 22 weekly dives between Saturn and its icy rings. The decision was made so that it wouldn’t crash into Saturn’s moons. You can even follow the mission via NASA or Cassini on Twitter (updates daily).

Until then, I have yet to visit Cape Canaveral as well as JPL in Pasadena (operations). I’m not sure if there are any live photos available on a JPL  visit, but simply standing where Cassini is operated from (JPL) or took off (CC) would mean so much to me. I received an A for my thesis and oral defense which officially proves that I’m a nerd. Yeih! I’ll miss the little spacecraft.


Day 18: Write about something for which you feel strongly


2 thoughts on “Saturn Suicide

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