Posts Tagged ‘space probes’

Cassini Pole

The giant hexagonal storm at Saturn’s north pole, as photographed by Cassini.

I’ve been thinking a lot today about the Cassini probe, and its imminent demise, early tomorrow morning (EDT) as it undertakes a planned suicide dive into the atmosphere of Saturn.

My friend Richard Easther (who is an actual cosmologist rather than an interested dabbler like me) has written a lovely eulogy for the mission, “Set the Controls for the Heart of Saturn,” which in addition to being both informed and evocative naturally gets big bonus points for the Pink Floyd reference.  He articulates many of the emotions I’m feeling: the way this mission evokes a sense of wonder and takes us both back to the days when we were adolescents poring over the latest images in books and magazines from Voyager.

The many retrospectives of Cassini’s discoveries over the last week have also made me realize something else.  The unmanned space exploration program undertaken mainly by NASA/JPL with some help from the ESA and the occasional Russian rocket should be understood categorically as the defining technological achievement of humanity.

(more…)

Advertisements