NASA's Cassini to crash into Saturn today, ending 20 years of mission

NASA's Cassini to crash into Saturn today, ending 20 years of mission

NASA's Cassini to crash into Saturn today, ending 20 years of mission

It came to an end after the completion of 4.9 billion miles of the journey which equals to 7.9 billion kilometres. It was a fiery grand finale for the probe, which spent 13 years orbiting the ringed planet.

Saturn as seen by Cassini.

"The signal from the spacecraft has gone, and within 45 seconds so will the spacecraft", the project manager of the Cassini mission said.

"Congratulations to you all", Maize announced to applause. Cassini's mission has set an incredible benchmark to which future NASA missions can aspire, but its accomplishments will be hard to top. He said that he is feeling unfortunate as the Cassini is going to end on September 15th, 2017.

Following its final maneuvering orders from NASA mission control that sent it on a high-speed ring-around of Saturn, the Cassini Huygens probe was put on the end stretch of its flight plan - and mission life - by NASA early this week.

The final stream of data from Cassini was received at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in southern California. That means Cassini was able to get a little deeper into the atmosphere, giving NASA more data to pore over in the coming "weeks, months, years".

Another gem from Cassini was the series of observations that led to this iconic moving portrait of Saturn's great hexagonal polar storm.

Spacecraft designers "built a ideal spacecraft, right to the last end", said Julie Webster, spacecraft operations manager on the mission, at the press conference.

The gravity of the moment itself was apparent to everyone at JPL. "This is a celebration of an wonderful mission and incredible legacy". "I feel like a part of me goes with it".

The finding "suggests that we don't really understand Saturn's internal structure and how the planetary dynamo is generated yet", says Michele Dougherty, a space physicist at Imperial College London. "And so for everybody to get on the ride ... it is just phenomenal". However, it gave the short list relating to the Peggy which may aid researchers to make the final picture-making.

With the spacecraft running low on fuel, NASA crashed it into Saturn to avoid any chance of it someday colliding with and contaminating Titan, Enceladus or another moon that has the potential for indigenous microbial life.

And so a man-made meteor will streak across Saturn's sky, though confirmation of the spacecraft's demise more than a billion kilometers away, and on the wrong side of the asteroid belt, will not reach Earth for another 83 minutes, when the signals beamed home from the probe fall silent. About two minutes later, Cassini will burn and disintegrate completely - any traces of it will melt due to the heat and high pressure of the giant planet's hostile atmosphere, she added.

Every week, Cassini has been diving through the approximately 2,000-kilometre-wide gap between Saturn and its rings.

During that time it has sent back some incredible images to Nasa and the European Space Agency, including detailed images of Saturn, its rings and its moons. Because of the density of the atmosphere this close to Saturn, the spacecraft used the MR-103H thrusters to maintain stability under conditions similar to those encountered during many of Cassini's close flybys of Saturn's moon, Titan, which has its own dense atmosphere.

He said: "One of the most startling discoveries of Cassini has been that [Saturn's moon] Enceladus has a liquid water ocean under its ice surface, and that this ocean contains salts and organic molecules".

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