NASA has announced future plans for their missions to Saturn, and invites the public to help them name their latest mission. NASA has a reputation for attributing great names to the space agency’s exploration missions. From the Apollo missions, to the Curiosity, Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers, NASA invites the public to submit and vote on their latest mission to Saturn.
The naming of the mission is an extension of NASA’s Cassini mission which has been in service for nearly a decade approaching its 10th anniversary this year. Cassini is most recently famous for the discovery of an underground liquid ocean inside the Saturn Moon Enceladus.The theory was first conceived when Cassini discovered water vapor and ice particles spewing from vents near Enceladus’ southern pole. Cassini used gravity measurements along with Deep Space Network researchers on the water vapor jets to discern the Moon harbors an interior liquid ocean covered by a large ice shell.
Cassini was also revered for providing NASA with the closest flyby of Saturn’s Moon, Titan. It was estimated that the spacecraft was roughly 598 miles from Titan’s haze-obscuring surface. This mission allowed for Cassini to sample the composition of Titan’s outermost atmosphere, determining the elemental, chemical and isotopic composition of the volatile and gas components of the neutral low energy ion particles located in Titan’s ionosphere and atmosphere. Cassini has preformed over 100 flyby’s to the methane sea moon, with its 100th flyby being the closest, providing important and unique observational data. NASA invites the public to help name another aspect of a Cassini Saturn mission, allowing the public to participate in the legacy of Cassini and the information the durable spacecraft provides the space agency.
Beginning around sometime late in 2016, the space agency’s Cassini spacecraft is scheduled to climb repeatedly high above the north pole of Saturn, flying just outside Saturn’s narrow F ring. The mission instructs Cassini to probe the water-rich plumes of Saturn’s intriguing moon Enceladus, afterwords hoping the planetary rings diving between Saturn and its innermost ring. Cassini is scheduled to perform these maneuvers 22 times in hopes of retrieving viable data about the moon’s water systems.
Appropriately since the spacecraft Cassini is operating very close to Saturn and its ring system, the NASA team has been naming the maneuver phase “the proximal orbits,” and wholeheartedly believe some creative mind out there can certainly conjure up something better. NASA invites the public to help name the Saturn Mission maneuvers in hopes to discover a great name suitable for the space agency’s naming legacy, while getting the public enthusiastic about the Saturn exploration mission.
NASA has made it evident that they need help and have come up with a system for you to assist in the name game. NASA has already assembled a list of possible names where you can choose your top 3 favorites, or you can submit up to 3 of your own ideas. The space agency has reported the name will be revealed sometime in May 2014, giving the public only a few weeks to cast their ideas and votes.
Opinion by Zane Foley