Friday, 15 September 2017


On Friday 15th September the spacecraft Cassini ended its mission by being sent* into the atmosphere of the planet Saturn, when it was burned up and destroyed. It was launched in October 1997, and in 2010 it set out* on a 7-year mission extension* to explore Saturn and its moons. It has run out of rocket fuel and one writer said it is just about running on fumes. Its deliberate destruction has the purpose of disposing of it rather than risk the possibility* of it colliding with one of the moons and thus contaminating it for future exploration. Cassini’s impact course has taken five months, in a series of 22 orbits that pass between the planet and the rings. As it made its final descent, it continued sending information until it could no longer function. It then burned up like a meteor.

* "sent" Special outline, above the line so that it is not misread as "send"

* "set out" Halving for the T of "out"

* "extension" Keep the T clearly vertical, so it does not look like "expansion" which has a similar meaning

* "possibility" Optional contraction

Everyone knows that scientists like to approach everything with a dispassionate*, level-headed and rational attitude. It needs a cool, detached and thoroughly objective turn of mind to plan and carry out these space missions that will add to our fund* of knowledge of the workings of the universe. Nothing but logical and analytical* plans, methods, investigations and discussions will do, with everyone’s theories, models, notions, and conjectures* given equal consideration. This way of dealing with scientific missions has brought us to the place where we can gain a huge amount of information on distant planets and heavenly bodies in the unending blackness of outer space. They don’t get upset by the cessation of mere mechanical devices and expendable* hardware - surely not?

* "dispassionate" Normally the shun hook would go in the opposite direction to an initial hook or circle, to balance the outline, but that is not possible with this word

* "fund" Insert the vowel, as "fount" could also make sense here

* "analytical" Compare with the root word "analysing" in para 5

* "conjectures" Doubling is used for "-ture" for convenience here, as there is no other word that it could be, similarly "picture" "structure"

* "expendable" This is similar to "expandable" which should have its vowel inserted for clarity, well up over the circle S so it is clear it is a first place dot

The write-ups on this end of mission event are somewhat different though. Cassini did not descend, it plunged into the depths. Its travels through the rings of Saturn were in fact daring dives and at one point it leapt over the rings. The exploration is more than merely interesting, it is positively thrilling, and its 20-year journey is remarkable rather than merely informative. All regions of space ought to be equal but for some reason this one is described as unique. Its mysteries are, most unscientifically, irksome until they are solved, a tiresome state of affairs that promises to be never-ending in the study of the universe! But there are many pictures that are not only helpful but utterly* and truly* amazing*. These end of mission events are entitled the Grand Finale, which rather lets the cat out of the bag as to why we have all these emotional adjectives. Cassini, and other similar spacecraft, are going where no-one has gone before, on our behalf, and we are all invited to watch the entertainment*, the performance and the show as the drama unfolds, and, in this case, the final curtain.

* "utterly" "truly" Always insert the first vowel in these, as the are similar in outline and could be read for each other in many contexts

* "amazing" and "amusing" Always insert the middle vowel

* "entertainment" Omits the middle N to gain a convenient outline

If you are learning shorthand in order to be* a reporter, it will be your job to write such articles, and decide on the type of approach that is necessary, or expected by your employers, for each story. Disasters, crime and violence need no help to be more compelling. Science, as above, may need an injection of excitement, if it is written to those outside the scientific readership. Harmless and trivial space fillers of amusing* stories are about the only ones that require all the punning and descriptive skills that can be mustered.

* "in order to be" The word "to" is included in the first phrase, so the "be" does not have to go through the line for "to be"

* "amazing" and "amusing" Always insert the middle vowel

Fortunately Nasa* and others discussing this mission are delighted to share with us their enthusiasm and emotional attachment to the faithful, fearless but fated Cassini. They are giving us every detail of its doings, comings and goings, from its beginning to its final dramatic death plunge, pulling our heartstrings with it, as it enters its fireball ending, its glorious and spectacular demise and terminal blaze of glory. It went out with a bang as it smashed into the atmosphere, got torn apart, became a streak of ash, melted and vaporised. The end has come for the intrepid probe, and we have had the final bittersweet kiss goodbye. Descriptions of its end are a requiem for a machine, there will be grieving, flowing tears and emotional tributes.

* "Nasa" This acronym is written as sounded, just like any other word, but it is helpful to insert the vowels, at least on the first occurrence of it in a dictation

Someone said that the sadness was really for themselves, not knowing what mission may replace it in their careers, although they will be poring* over and analysing* the voluminous amount of information for many years. For some it is their last mission and their sense of loss is a reality check as they are approaching retirement, albeit a more comfortable one than Cassini was granted. This affection for a tiny mechanical device, meeting its end all alone miles from home, reminds me of the last lines of a poem I learned in school, "For whatever we lose (like a you or a me*) it’s always ourselves that we find in the sea."* In fact I found a plaintive description just like this, accompanying a photo from Cassini showing a pinpoint of light that was planet Earth, small and alone in the vastness* of space.

* "poring" To pore is to study intently, to "pour" means tip out a liquid

* "analysing" The basic outline for this word, but compare "analytical" in para 2

* "me" Vowel added for clarity, as in a poem the context is often insufficient, as words are used in unusual ways

* Poem entitled "Maggie and Milly and Molly and May" by e e cummings

* "vastness" Omits the lightly sounded T. Also the V must be clearly thick, so it is not misread as "fastness" (a fortified place or stronghold)

Although the mourners knew this was coming, we ordinary folk are all truly* shocked, saddened and bereft as it went to its fiery end, which will have occurred 83 minutes before we received its final signal. How will we cope now it is gone, never to return? Then, a few minutes after seeing the programme or reading the article, all that is forgotten as we give in to the gravitational pull of the kitchen, the kettle and the biscuit tin or cookie* jar, and wonder whether tomorrow’s journey to the office will be sunny or rainy. As the cliché goes - End of Story*.  (919 words)

* "truly" Always insert the vowel in this and in "utterly" as they are similar in outline and could be read for each other in many contexts

* "cookie" and "cake" Always insert the vowel, as they could both make sense in most contexts

* "End of Story" This is often shortened to "End of" for extra emphasis on the speaker's attitude about the matter