Episode 18: Cassini Countdown

When the Cassini spacecraft blasted into space on October 15, 1997, even the most optimistic scientists would have had a hard time predicting the mission’s success. Dr. Michelle Thaller speaks with the Cassini mission’s Project Scientist Linda Spilker, as well as Julie Webster, a longtime Cassini engineer and a manager for spacecraft operations. One of Cassini’s biggest legacies will be how she gave a much clearer picture of Saturn’s 62 moons, including two worlds that scientists now think could potentially host life.

Nearly twenty years later, Cassini will crash-land into Saturn’s atmosphere this September, ending a rich chapter in exploration and discovery of our own solar system.

Orbital Path is produced by Justin O’Neill and editor Andrea Mustain. Production oversight by John Barth and Genevieve Sponsler. Hosted by Michelle Thaller.

Image caption: The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Feb. 4, 2015 using a spectral filter centered at 752 nanometers, in the near-infrared portion of the spectrum. Courtesy NASA.