NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Ends Mission With Plunge Into Saturn

Cassini’s last full view of Saturn created from combined images taken in October

In fact, Cassini's fatal plunge into Saturn was made to prevent the spacecraft from potentially infecting Saturn's moons with Earth bacteria, which might upset the extraterrestrial ecology or even wipe out undiscovered life.

Without Cassini, no one would have ever thought of life existing in the moons of Saturn. Cassini has also accomplished its mission many times over, since it arrived at Saturn in 2004. Many scientists considered Cassini mission as an fantastic one and were sad that the Cassini finally got destroyed, but they were confident that the valuable information, as well as the images that Cassini sent, would help them in future explorations and considered it as the beginning of a new chapter.

Taken from a distance of 1.1 million kilometres from Saturn, this the final view of Saturn's famous rings captured by Cassini on September 13.

Images that are just as potent as the ones from space are the ones from Cassini's mission team as they watched the final moments of the probe's life.

Cassini was set on a course to plunge through Saturn's atmosphere and vaporize like a meteor Friday morning.

What do you think of these final Cassini images?

MOONS: Saturn has 62 known moons, including six discovered by Cassini.

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During its final journey, Cassini was sending back new and unique science to the very end. Radio signals from the aircraft came to a sudden halt as the spacecraft hurtled into the planet it had been watching. "I'm going to call this the end of [the] mission". At this morning's press conference, project manager Earl Maize appeared a little teary when he said that Cassini had been a faithful companion all these years, but added this also is a time of "serenity" knowing that "we did what we needed to do".

Many lessons learned during Cassini's mission are being applied to planning NASA's Europa Clipper mission, planned for launch in the 2020s, according to the US space agency.

Future missions to the ice giants might explore those worlds using an approach similar to Cassini's mission.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA designed, built and operated Cassini in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). Its lakes hold liquid methane, which could hold some new, exotic form of life.

In the decades following Cassini, scientists hope to return to the Saturn system to follow up on the mission's many discoveries.

"Cassini may be gone, but its scientific bounty will keep us occupied for many years", Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist, said in a statement. "We've only scratched the surface of what we can learn from the mountain of data it has sent back over its lifetime".

"This is the final chapter of an unbelievable mission, but it's also a new beginning", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

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