NASA’s Cassini spacecraft successfully completed its close flyby of Saturn’s moon Enceladus today, passing 30 miles (49 kilometers) above the moon’s south polar region at approximately 8:22 a.m. PDT (11:22 a.m. EDT).

cassini-spacecraft-enceladus

While the spacecraft is not equipped to detect life, scientists hope that the pass will give them a better understanding of what is contained in the icy spray, how much there is, and if conditions might be hospitable to life.

The first images are expected in the next 24-48 hours, NASA said.

Mission controllers established two-way communication with the spacecraft this afternoon and expect it to begin transmitting data from the encounter this evening. Images are anticipated in the next 24 to 48 hours.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the mission for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. The Cassini imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

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