After a successful dive through Saturn's rings, NASA's Cassini aircraft began transmitting unprocessed images of its successful expedition--providing an intimate and unprecedented glimpse into Saturn's atmosphere, the agency reported.
Cassini came within about 1,900 miles of Saturn's cloud tops and within about 200 miles of the planet's innermost visible edge of the rings.
Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said, "In the grandest tradition of exploration, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has once again blazed a trail, showing us new wonders and demonstrating where our curiosity can take us if we dare."
WATCH | NASA employees celebrate Cassini's successful mission.
Mission managers were confident that Cassini would complete the expedition successfully, but they took extra precautions since the region had never before been explored.
"No spacecraft has ever been this close to Saturn before. We could only rely on predictions, based on our experience with Saturn's other rings, of what we thought this gap between the rings and Saturn would be like," said Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Cassini, whose next dive through the gap is scheduled for May 2, has been in orbit since 1997. In 2004, Cassini arrived at Saturn, and most recently, passed the large moon, Titan. It's mission will come to a complete end on Sept. 15, 2017.
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