As the Cassini spacecraft closes in on the Saturn planetary system, the view out its portal is growing more enticing with time. Since our last look at Saturn over a year ago, we have traveled more than half the distance to the planet and are now closer to Saturn than the Earth is to the Sun.
Today we are releasing our latest image captured on November 9, 2003. The finely-banded, multi-hued nature of the atmosphere is now apparent, familiar details in the rings are beginning to emerge, and five major Saturnian moons have finally been spotted ... signposts that we are nearly there. For all of us who remember Voyager's arrival at Saturn twenty-three years ago and the thrill of seeing its myriad phenomena for the first time, this return to the ringed planet is a sentimental journey indeed.
Starting in mid-February, when the planet will appear nearly twice as big as seen today, Cassini will start its initial approach sequence of data collection. At that point, frequent imaging of the planet, its rings and moons will commence. Visitors to this site can expect to watch along with us as we make our way, in this final leg of our journey, towards our scheduled July 1, 2004 appointment and Cassini's orbit insertion around the ringed planet.