Science students at Mercy High School had a front row seat, or as close as you can get from a classroom in Connecticut, first thing Friday morning to the cosmic death of NASA‘s Cassini spacecraft as it ended its 20-year mission with a graceful dive into Saturn’s atmosphere.
On NASA’s live stream of the mission’s final day, there was 2007 Mercy graduate Joanie Stupik in the control room, talking about her job steering the delicate spacecraft over the last four years as an engineer with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“There’s Joanie!” physics teacher Buff Bachenheimer shouted as her former student talked about the task of keeping Cassini perfectly on track so it could transmit data until its final moment.
“We want to get every last possible second of information, which means our antenna needs to be pointed towards Earth for as long as we possibly can. As we enter into the atmosphere Saturn’s going to start trying to tug us away so we want to hold the antenna as steady as we possibly can for that whole time,” Stupik said on screen. “We’re learning all about Saturn’s atmosphere with all the instruments we can as we go in.”
About 25 students at the all-girls school watched the broadcast from the very classroom Stupik sat in 10 years ago. A few arrived by 7 a.m. to watch, even though their class didn’t begin until 7:30.
Cassini entered Saturn’s upper atmosphere traveling nearly 77,000 miles per hour. NASA scientists watched, with Stupik’s commentary going out to the millions watching the broadcast, as the spacecraft’s thrusters struggled to keep the stream of valuable data heading back toward…
click here to read more.