The Saturn-bound Cassini spacecraft successfully performed a flyby of the planet Venus Sunday morning (April 26), coming about 284 kilometers (176 miles) from the Venusian surface. The flyby gave the Cassini spacecraft a boost in speed of about 7 kilometers per second (about 4 miles per second) help the spacecraft reach Saturn in July 2004.
"All indications are that the spacecraft did exactly what we expected," said Deputy Program Manager Ronald Draper at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA. "Everything seems to be right on the mark." Cassini was launched from Cape Canaveral, FL, on October 15, 1997. Cassini was built by and its mission is managed by JPL. It is an international mission involving NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.
NASA's Deep Space Network telecommunications antennas in California's Mojave Desert and near Madrid, Spain, tracked the spacecraft as it made its closest approach to Venus at 6:52 a.m., Pacific Daylight Time (Earth-received time). One-way light time to the spacecraft from Earth was about 7-1/2 minutes.
Leaving Venus, the spacecraft was moving at more than 141,000 kilometers per hour (87,000 miles per hour). Science instruments on the spacecraft searched for lightning in Venus's atmosphere during the flyby, and the radar instrument onboard was activated to test a bounced signal off Venus's surface.
Today (April 26, 1998), Cassini is about 136 million kilometers (about 85 million miles) from Earth.
In its long trajectory to Saturn, Cassini will perform another flyby of Venus next June, one of Earth in August 1999, and one of Jupiter in 2000. All of the flybys impart more speed to the spacecraft to allow it to reach its final destination of the Saturnian system. After it enters orbit around Saturn in 2004, Cassini will study the ringed planet, its moons and ring system for at least four years. It will also deliver a scientific probe called Huygens to parachute to the surface of Saturn's largest moon, Titan.
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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