Seminar: The Grand Finale of NASA’s Cassini Mission to Saturn

December 21, 2016

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U alumna Julie Webster, manager of the Cassini Spacecraft Operations Office at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will present a seminar on Friday, January 13, 2017, 3:00 pm, in the Sidney & Marian Green Classroom (3550 MEK), entitled, “The Grand Finale of NASA’s Cassini Mission to Saturn.” All are invited to this free and public presentation.

The Cassini spacecraft, the largest outer planetary spacecraft built by NASA, was launched on October 15, 1997. To reach Saturn, it needed almost seven years and four gravity assists from Venus, Earth and Jupiter. Since leaving Earth, Cassini has achieved monumental things. The first spacecraft to orbit Saturn, Cassini mapped Saturn’s magnetosphere, discovered previously unknown moons, found that at least two moons might be habitable for life, and studied Saturn’s atmosphere and rings more closely and extensively than ever before.

Now, Cassini has entered its “Grand Finale” stage, and a month shy of 20 years in space on September 15, 2017, Cassini will take the final plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere. The spacecraft will be crushed and vaporized by the pressure and temperature of Saturn’s final embrace to protect worlds like Enceladus and Titan, moons with liquid water oceans under their icy crusts that might harbor life.

Webster has been with the mission since before launch. She will give an overview of the spacecraft and the mission and describe the events that will take place in 2017, in what is expected to be the most exciting year for Saturn science.

Bio: Julie Webster is currently the Manager for the Cassini Spacecraft Operations Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. She has been at JPL for twenty-three years, twenty years on the Cassini Mission. Her previous interplanetary spacecraft experience in Mission Operations includes Magellan and Mars Observer. Prior to working at JPL, Ms. Webster was with Martin Marietta Astronautics, where she did system test engineering, Assembly, Test and Launch Operations (ATLO) and flight operations for several spacecraft, missile, and launch vehicle programs. Ms. Webster has been awarded two NASA Exceptional Service Medals and a NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal for her work on Cassini and Magellan. Webster has a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Utah, where she also studied Mechanical Engineering. She worked for several years as a chemist before entering the aerospace field.

More about the Cassini Spacecraft

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