After 13 years of service and more than half a million captured images, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft was consumed by the atmosphere of the planet dubbed as the ‘Lord of the Rings,’ aka Saturn.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft disintegrated in Saturn’s atmosphere this Friday, Sept. 15.
Cassini began its journey as it departed Earth in 1997 and arrived at the solar system’s second largest planet in 2004, beginning what would later become one of the most successful missions in the history of space exploration.
Fifteen minutes before NASA lost contact with the spacecraft, the voice of Dr. Maize was heard in a live stream from mission control telling his team:
‘This might be a good time to pass out the farewell peanuts.’
In its farewell flight, the spacecraft has managed to transmit the latest data and photographs of the planet. The images are outstanding and just show the beauties of the solar system we’ve been missing out.
As it passed through the rings of Saturn, the spaceship managed to snap a series of incredible images.
The broadcasts were received by NASA’s Deep Space Network in Canberra, Australia, and published by the space agency on its official website.
The decision to conclude the Cassini mission was taken by the space agency because the spacecraft was running out of fuel, becoming impossible to steer and would become a wandering spacecraft in space.
The final crash into Saturn was decided to prevent the ship from contaminating its life-potential moons, such as Enceladus and Titan.
In the thirteen years, the spacecraft has spent studying Saturn and its moons, the $4 billion (£3 billion) Cassini probe has transformed our understanding of not only the ringed planet and its moons but the entire solar system.
10 minutes before the expected loss of signal, Cassini was traveling into Saturn’s atmosphere at a speed of around 75,000 miles per hour.
Earl Maize, the program manager for Cassini, announced: ‘The signal from the spacecraft has gone. Congratulations, this has been an incredible mission and incredible spacecraft.’
Seen above is a sequence of the last images taken by the Cassini spacecraft where we can see the moon Enceladus setting behind Saturn. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute