Mission Complete: Cassini Burns Up Over Saturn

Spacecraft vaporizes after 20-year journey exploring planet
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 15, 2017 5:55 AM CDT
Updated Sep 15, 2017 7:10 AM CDT
Say Goodbye to the Amazing Cassini Spacecraft
This image made available by NASA in April 2017 shows a still from the short film "Cassini's Grand Finale," with the spacecraft diving between Saturn and the planet's innermost ring.   (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

Cassini is no more. NASA, and the world, are saying goodbye to the Cassini spacecraft Friday morning after it burned up over Saturn as planned. Cassini plunged through the planet's atmosphere and vaporized like a meteor, ending a remarkable journey of 20 years, per the AP. "Our @CassiniSaturn spacecraft is now one with the planet it studied for so long," declared NASA in a tweet. "The rest is science."

While saddened like everyone else, program manager Earl Maize said he felt great pride and couldn't have asked for more from "such an incredible machine." The only spacecraft to ever orbit Saturn, Cassini showed us the planet, its rings, and moons up close in all their glory. (National Geographic rounds up some of its last photos.) Perhaps most tantalizing, ocean worlds were unveiled by Cassini and its hitchhiking companion, the Huygens lander, on the moons Enceladus and Titan, which could possibly harbor life. "We've left the world informed but still wondering," Maize said earlier this week. "We've got to go back. We know it." (More Cassini stories.)

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