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NASA extends Cassini mission
Posted: Thu, Feb 4, 2010, 6:19 AM ET (1119 GMT)
Cassini enters orbit around Saturn (NASA/JPL) The Cassini spacecraft will continue its studies of Saturn and its moons through 2017 under a mission extension NASA announced Wednesday. Cassini, launched in 1997, has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004 and already received one extension after the end of its four-year primary mission. The "Cassini Solstice Mission" will allow the spacecraft to study the planet to the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. The mission plan also includes 54 flybys of Titan, the planet's largest moon, and 11 of the icy moon Enceladus. The mission extension will end with the spacecraft plunging into Saturn itself to avoid the potential of colliding with and contaminating Enceladus, which may have liquid water oceans beneath its surface.
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