Published: Sat, September 16, 2017
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Over and out: Cassini meets fiery death after 20-year space adventure

Over and out: Cassini meets fiery death after 20-year space adventure

On Friday morning, reports indicated that the Cassini spacecraft committed a "death dive" into Saturn, ending a 13-year-long mission to transmit data about Saturn's composition and makeup, according to CNN. Cassini used the planet's gravity to boost itself to Saturn. Back in April, the spacecraft started a series of orbits that had the goal of looking in between and behind Saturn's rings. "Thanks for the science", Nasa tweeted. After 13 years of exploring Saturn and its moons, the spacecraft will deliberately plunge at over 75,000 miles per hour into the planet and ultimately be destroyed by the weight and temperature of the atmosphere.

Cassini began its voyage back in 1997 and in its final week, the spacecraft looped between the rings of Saturn one final time, past Titan, Saturn's giant moon, for a farewell fly-by.

Cassini took its last photo - a shot of the patch of atmosphere where it will meet its doom - at 12:58 p.m. PDT (3:58 p.m. EDT; 1958 GMT) Thursday (Sept. 14). The spacecraft will then reconfigure for a near-real-time date relay during the final plunge.

Cassini project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Earl Maize said, "The spacecraft's final signal will be like an echo".

During its time at Saturn, the probe has re-shaped our understanding of the ringed planet and its place in the solar system, sending back fantastic photos and scientific data about the world's moons, rings, and environment.

Scientists feared a collision with Titan or Enceladus, two of Saturn's moons that in the past 10 years have shown a potential to host simple life.

The Saturn System Through the Eyes of Cassini (e-Book)
These are the last close-up photos of Saturn we may see in decades

The spacecraft sent back remarkable images and copious data from each object, finally reaching the Saturn system in 2004.

Today completed the last journey of the probe "Cassini". But none have studied Saturn in such detail as Cassini, named after the French-Italian astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini, who discovered in the 17th century that Saturn had several moons and a gap between its rings.

One of Cassini's most important discoveries was the existence of a global watery ocean under the icy surface of Enceladus that could conceivably host life.

"Most of what we have in science textbooks about Saturn comes from Cassini", JPL Director Mike Watkins said to the Washington Post.

A European Space Agency probe carried by the orbiter, called Huygens, made worldwide headlines when it landed on Titan, the largest of Saturn's moons, in January 2005.

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