NASA’S historic Cassini mission is over after the spacecraft dived into Saturn, burning up as it entered the ringed-planet’s atmosphere.
Ground control sent the spacecraft into the atmosphere of Saturn at about 12.55PM on Friday, September 15, completing a 20-year long mission.
From The Express
The space agency reported that Cassini lasted for a minute or so as it entered Saturn’s atmosphere, before it broke apart.
The mission is deemed as one of the most successful space probes to date as the likes of Nasa gained unprecedented views and new information on Saturn.
The spacecraft was launched in 1997 but did not arrive at the ringed planet until 12 years ago.
However, all good things must come to an end and Cassini was sent to a fiery death after revealing secrets on the giant gas planet and its 62 moons.
Following its death, Nasa tweeted: “Every time we see Saturn in the night sky, we’ll remember. We’ll smile. And we’ll want to go back. #GrandFinale #GoodbyeCassini #Cassini”.
Earl Maize, Cassini’s project manager, said: “The signal from the spacecraft has gone, and within 45 seconds so will the spacecraft.
“I hope you’re all as deeply proud fo this amazing accomplishment. Congratulations to you all. This has been an incredible mission, an incredible spacecraft, and you’ve all been an incredible team.”
The reason Nasa decided to obliterate Cassini is that if it is left to drift around the planet, it could collide with one of Saturn’s moons which may have an effect on any possible life elsewhere in the solar system.
Nasa explained: “In order to avoid the unlikely possibility of Cassini someday colliding with one of these moons, NASA has chosen to safely dispose of the spacecraft in the atmosphere of Saturn.
“This will ensure that Cassini cannot contaminate any future studies of habitability and potential life on those moons.”
British scientists and the European Space Agency (ESA) worked alongside Nasa in the historic mission – which saw the first ever landing on an outer solar system world when the Huygen attachment separated from Cassini to land on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, in 2005.
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 international leaders of planetary science in the Europe and the USA.
“Speaking personally, the Cassini mission is as old as my marriage, which took place two months before the launch, and I and my wife were lucky enough to witness the launch in 1997.
“We’ll raise a glass, or two, in the pub to Cassini on Friday lunchtime and will remember our involvement fondly and with great pride.”