Feeds

Cassini to make third Enceladus flyby

And NASA recycles a comet-chaser

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

NASA has announced plans to send the Cassini spacecraft back for a closer look at Enceladus, the Saturnian moon with famously leaky tiger stripes.

As part of its freshly declared budget clampdown, the agency says it wants to improve the value of space exploration by getting more science out of existing missions. Sending Cassini back for a closer look at the tiny but mysterious moon will help it do just that.

Enceladus: A baffling moon. Picture: CICLOPS

Enceladus: A baffling moon.

So far, scientists have seen that Enceladus has active plumes coming from its southern hemisphere, most likely from the tiger stripes, gouges that run across the polar region. The plumes are mostly water (about 90 per cent, according to Jim Green, head of NASA's planetary division), but traces of methane and ammonia have also been detected.

Green told reporters he was still baffled by the moon: "How can this body, only 500km across, have enough internal energy to sustain [the plumes]? The particles are being ejected with a velocity that is about half the muzzle velocity of a gun," he said.

"We are compelled to know more about this."

The plan is for the spacecraft to swing by in March 2008, on what will be its third pass of the moon.

The craft will fly very close to the moon, between 30km and 100km from its surface, and an approach angle of around 20° southern latitude. This, Green says, puts it directly in the plumes, which will allow much more detailed analysis of their origin, composition, and character.

"We'll skim through the plume on the outbound leg, and will move above the flow of the plumes. We'll get better resolution images, and better spectral information."

He says the team will also be able to do some more detailed thermal profiling that should help determine which of the tiger stripes is the most active, and where most of the material is coming from.

Another money saving enterprise will see the space agency teaching old space probes new tricks, as it plans to dig Stardust out of hibernation and send it to Comet Tempel-1. This is the same piece of solar system detritus on to which it crashed the Deep Impact probe.

Assistant administrator Alan Stern says: "We wanted to see how the comet has evolved since another [solar] closest approach. Nothing like this has ever been done."

The European Space Agency has already launched the Rosetta mission, scheduled to land on its target comet some time in 2014. This will actually attempt to land on the comet and observe it over a period of time. NASA says its plans for Stardust will give it snapshots, as compared to Rosetta's feature film. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Software bug caught Galileo sats in landslide, no escape from reality
Life had just begun, code error means Russia's gone and thrown it all away
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
prev story

Whitepapers

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup
Learn why inSync received the highest overall rating from Druva and is the top choice for the mobile workforce.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.