'Death Dive to Saturn': New 'NOVA' Special Celebrates Cassini Mission

To document the dramatic final days of the Cassini spacecraft's mission at Saturn, the next season of the PBS show "NOVA" will premiere with a 1-hour program called " Death Dive to Saturn " tonight (Sept. 13) at 9 p.m. EDT (8 p.m. CDT).

The WGBH Boston production team behind the Cassini special will be on-site this week at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, to capture "the tense and triumphant moments as [the Cassini team] find out if their gambit has paid off," as NOVA/WGBH shared in a press release. Producers will be at JPL until Cassini takes its fatal plunge and disintegrates into Saturn's toffee-colored atmosphere Friday (Sept. 15).

This week's footage will be used to update "Death Dive to Saturn" later on, NOVA representatives said in a statement, but on Sept. 15, NOVA will share the moments in real time on the series' social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter .

The Cassini spacecraft launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004, and it spent 13 years studying the mysterious planet from up close.

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The trailer for "Death Dive to Saturn" reveals how the Cassini mission has made the solar system a smaller place by collecting a plethora of data about a planet floating a billion miles away. The program will touch on Cassini's extraordinarily detailed images of Saturn's rings , and what scientists have learned about Saturn's more than 60 moons during the probe's three missions in the system.

A highlight will be the "NOVA" segment on the moon Enceladus , whose icy crust hosts geysers that revealed an underground ocean. The discoveries of Earth-like features on Enceladus and Saturn's largest moon, Titan, further emphasize the need to disintegrate Cassini before it runs the risk of colliding with and contaminating a Saturnian moon when the spacecraft runs out of fuel.

For further details on "NOVA: Death Dive to Saturn," visit pbs.org/nova .

Follow Doris Elin Salazar on Twitter @salazar_elin . Follow us @Spacedotcom , Facebook and Google+ . Original article on Space.com .