Nasa's Cassini spacecraft ends journey with fiery plunge into Saturn

According to NASA Cassini used its visual and infrared mapping spectrometer to observe the impact site which was at the time on Saturn¿s night side. Then it was lit only by light reflected from the planet¿s massive rings. This image shows
These are the last close-up photos of Saturn we may see in decades
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16 September, 2017

NASA's Cassini spacecraft disintegrated in the skies above Saturn early Friday in a final, fateful blaze of cosmic glory, following a remarkable journey of 20 years.

Astronomers around the world bid farewell Friday to NASA's famed Cassini spacecraft, which launched 20 years ago to circle Saturn and transformed the way we think about life elsewhere in the solar system.

Safe disposal of Cassini was seen as the best way to avoid the remote possibility of contaminating the pristine moons with Earth bugs.

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.

NASA's science mission director, Thomas Zurbuchen, made note of all the tissues inside JPL's Mission Control, along with the customary lucky peanuts.

No spacecraft has ever ventured so close to the planet before.

It's been nearly 20 years since Nasa's Cassini mission launched into space.

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"These final images are sort of like taking a last look around your house or apartment just before you move out", said Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Cassini, an worldwide project that cost $3.9 billion and included scientists from 27 nations, disintegrated as it dove into Saturn's atmosphere at a speed of 75,000 miles (120,700 kilometers) per hour.

The finale of the mission, which NASA will broadcast and comment live on September 15, were prepared in advance: from April this year, the probe for 22 weeks did "the dip" between the rings of the planet, gradually approaching her. In the 13 subsequent years, Cassini collected unprecedented data from the ringed planet and its many moons.

Several hours before Cassini burned up, its infrared imaging instrument pointed down at Saturn and took a picture of the spot where it was headed.

For the curious, here's how Cassini's last few minutes are going to go down. Perhaps most tantalising, ocean worlds were unveiled by Cassini and its hitchhiking companion, the Huygens lander, on the moons Enceladus and Titan, which could possibly harbour life.

"We want to go back to Titan, we want to go back to Enceladus; there's so much we don't know about the interior of Saturn, so people have talked about Saturn probe missions".

Cassini has also discovered seven new moons, six of which have been named, observed raging storms on Saturn, and shed new light on the planet's famous rings.


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