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Cassini probe survives dive inside Saturn rings

Saturn view from Cassini
This unprocessed image of Saturn’s atmosphere was captured by the Cassini probe during its dive inside the planet’s rings. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute Image)

NASA’s Cassini orbiter zoomed inside Saturn’s rings overnight for the first time in its 20-year-long flight – and lived to tell about it.

Signals received by the Deep Space Network’s Goldstone radio antenna in California confirmed that the bus-sized spacecraft survived its closest-ever encounter with the ringed planet.

Cassini zoomed as close as 1,900 miles to Saturn’s cloud tops and within about 200 miles of the innermost visible edge of the rings, at a relative speed of 77,000 mph, NASA reported in an update early today.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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