Cassini starts preparing for its sensational grand finale

The spacecraft is moving to higher altitudes in preparation for its last year.

Cassini, the spacecraft responsible for spectacular images of Saturn and its moons, is expected to dive into Saturn's atmosphere and burn up on September 15th, 2017. To prepare for this grand finale, it has begun maneuvering to higher altitudes, way above Saturn's rings and equator. In fact, it's just finished making its second maneuver on January 23rd, which took 90 minutes overall. Three more maneuvers will follow until it's near enough the planet's moon Titan so that its gravity can pull Cassini up. The spacecraft's target location is a certain altitude and latitude above the moon.

Once the probe has reached that location, it's slated to orbit Saturn's outermost ring 20 times and then move to the space between the planet and its innermost rings. The spacecraft will then go around Saturn 20 more times in that orbit before it takes a fiery plunge into the planet. We can expect loads more breathtaking space photos from the spacecraft between today and September 2017, though, starting with images of Titan from its flyby scheduled for April 4th.