On Wednesday, the Cassini spacecraft makes the first of 22 death-defying dives into the 1,500-mile-wide gap between Saturn and its rings, giving us an unprecedented view of the sixth planet from the sun.
In honor of that maneuver, Google has released an adorable doodle paying tribute to Cassini and Saturn’s special relationship.
The animation shows a cartoon version of Cassini diving between Saturn and its rings, taking pictures along the way as the huge planet poses in the foreground.
Yep, it’s pretty cute.
And if all went according to plan, the doodle isn’t all that far off from what’s really happening at Saturn today.
Cassini should have made its first dive between Saturn and its rings at about 5 a.m. ET, snapping photos and collecting data using its science instruments on the way down.
Mission controllers won’t know if the maneuver was successful until at least 3 a.m. ET, when Cassini is expected to get back in touch with Earth.
We should also get our first look of Cassini’s new perspective on Saturn in the wee hours of Thursday morning. (NASA is expected to release images taken during the probe’s dive by around 3:30 a.m. ET.)
Cassini is officially at the beginning of the end of its 13 year mission at Saturn.
The spacecraft is expected to make a death dive into Saturn’s thick atmosphere, burning up in the process on September 15.
Cassini’s last day will be a sad one for space fans. The spacecraft has transformed the way we understand Saturn and its dozens of moons, revealing never-before-seen details of the planetary system and showing us beautiful black and white views of the ringed world.
Until the end comes, however, Cassini should continue sending back photos from its “grand finale” orbit between Saturn and its rings.