Nasa's Cassini crashes into Saturn to end 13-year-long historic mission

Nasa's Cassini crashes into Saturn to end 13-year-long historic mission

Nasa's Cassini crashes into Saturn to end 13-year-long historic mission

The destruction of the craft went entirely to plan, Nasa said.

Linda Spilker, a Scientist on the Cassini Project told the press members on September 13, Wednesday at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, that, "We've had an incredible 13-year mission". The orbiter, meanwhile, kept cruising through the Saturn system, studying the giant planet, its rings and its diverse panoply of moons. Today, we say farewell to Cassini...

Still, it was an emotional time for everyone involved, as many have been working with this spacecraft for decades.

The probe's death dive was actually carried out at roughly 6:31 a.m. EDT, but the delay and distance between Saturn and Earth caused NASA to continue receiving the probe's final radio signals for another 83 minutes after.

No spacecraft has ever ventured so close to the planet before. Perhaps Cassini's biggest revelation was the fact that Enceladus has a global ocean underneath its crust, one that could be habitable.

It discovered great lakes of liquid gas on the moon's surface. "It will radiate across the solar system for almost an hour and a half after Cassini itself has gone", Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement.

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Professor Patrick Irwin, whose Oxford University team supplied critical elements of Cassini's Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) instrument, said: "Cassini/CIRS has provided the underpinning to our planetary research in Oxford, and during its 20-year mission we have grown older, raised families and trained a whole new generation of scientists who have gone on to be worldwide leaders of planetary science in the Europe and the USA".

Even in its final months, Cassini got to collect some of its juiciest data. This last fling around the planet has given scientists an unparalleled insight into the rings from a position closer than any before.

In April 2017, Cassini embarked on a final programme of 22 orbits of Saturn, each taking about six and half days to complete.

But Cassini still made the most of its final descent.

This is the last image taken by the cameras aboard NASA's awe-inspiring Cassini.

Now, its final encounter with the ringed beauty, will be its demise.

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Plus, the spacecraft captured as much data as it could up until the very end.

As expected, Cassini entered Saturn's atmosphere with its thrusters firing to maintain stability, as it sent back a unique final set of science observations, NASA said.

For the curious, here's how Cassini's last few minutes are going to go down.

The doomed spacecraft also took close-up pictures of Saturn's rings, including one where it peeks back at its starting point: Earth.

Cassini launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida in 1997, then spent seven years in transit followed by 13 years orbiting Saturn.

"The signal from the spacecraft is gone and within the next 45 seconds so will be the spacecraft", Earl Maize, the program manager said from mission control just after 4:55 a.m. local time. All the while, it was collecting its last bits of data regarding Saturn's atmosphere.

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