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NASA scientist to speak at Cal Poly, a day after spacecraft’s fiery demise

This is what Cassini's final, fiery plunge into Saturn's atmosphere will look like

A video from NASA shows a simulation of the Cassini spacecraft's final dive and burn into Saturn's atmosphere. The final plunge is set to take place Friday, September 15, 2017.
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A video from NASA shows a simulation of the Cassini spacecraft's final dive and burn into Saturn's atmosphere. The final plunge is set to take place Friday, September 15, 2017.

On Friday, planetary scientist and NASA Cassini project team member Jani Radebaugh will watch as the Cassini spacecraft makes its self-destructive flight into Saturn’s atmosphere. Then on Saturday, she’ll speak at Cal Poly.

Radebaugh is scheduled to speak at Cal Poly’s second annual Ross and Sue Benitez Space Exploration Forum, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday at Spanos Theatre. The event is free and open to the public; doors open at 6:30 p.m.

jani radebaugh
Jani Radebaugh Cal Poly

“Radebaugh, a geology professor from Brigham Young University, is a planetary scientist extraordinaire, world traveler, geologist and science communicator,” Cal Poly spokesman Jay Thompson said in a statement.

For more than 13 years, she’s been part of NASA’s Cassini team, where she’s interpreted extraterrestial landscapes by comparing snapshots from Cassini with Earth’s geology. Radebaugh has studied the giant dunes, volcanoes, rivers and lakes of Saturn’s moon Titan, as well as the active volcanoes and mountains of Io, one of Jupiter’s moons.

“To understand these places has required us to be ourselves explorers, ranging from the deserts of Egypt, Arabia and Persia, over the high plateaus of the Argentine Puna and to the edges of lava lakes in Ethiopia and Vanuatu,” Radebaugh said in a news release.

NASA is expected to destroy Cassini early Friday morning, sending it to burn up like a meteor in Saturn’s atmosphere. The bus-sized spacecraft is nearly out of fuel, and destroying it will prevent it from becoming space debris, “to ensure Saturn’s moons remain pristine for future exploration,” according to a Cal Poly statement.

More information is available by visiting physics.calpoly.edu/space.

Andrew Sheeler: 805-781-7929, @andrewsheeler

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