Cassini, NASA’s 13 Year Saturn Mission Has Ended
According to NASA, Cassini took a dramatic dive into Saturn is now officially gone
The spacecraft sank on purpose into Saturn’s upper atmosphere at a high speed just after 6:30 a.m. on Friday. Taking into consideration the amount of time it takes for signals to reach Earth, the final signal from Cassini reached the Deep Space Network’s Canberra Station one and a half hour later.
For almost a minute, Cassini was able to transmit new data regarding the planet’s composition as long as its antenna remained pointed toward Earth. After that, the spacecraft burned and disintegrated due to the extreme heat and high pressure of Saturn’s atmosphere. Now it is part of the planet it orbited for so long.
Cassini is the first spacecraft to come this close to Saturn.
“You can think of Cassini as the first Saturn probe,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist.
On Thursday, Cassini took its last images and transmitted all data on its recorder.
For the team behind the mission, losing the spacecraft brings mixed feelings: most of them are sad that the mission is over, yet excited to see the science provided by this unprecedented proximity to Saturn during the final dive.
Cassini was launched in 1997 and reached the Saturn system in 2004, traveling nearly a million miles. It spent 13 years exploring the planet, as well as its moons. The data and images brought tremendous discoveries that changed the way scientists think about our solar system.
The scientists decided to give Cassini such a heart breaking ending due to the fact that they did not want to risk colliding with Saturn’s moons in an attempt to park the spacecraft in orbit.