On Friday, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere, marking the end of a historic mission.
For over 13 years, Cassini orbited Saturn taking over 300,000 photos, sending back 635 GB of scientific data and traveling billions of miles.
Cassini has exceeded its intended mission by years but is running dangerously low on fuel. To prevent the spacecraft from accidentally crash landing on one of Saturn’s moons, potentially contaminating it with microbes from Earth hitching a ride aboard the spacecraft, NASA decided to end the mission by having it burn up while entering the planet’s atmosphere.
Cassini was not alone on its journey across the solar system as the Huygens probe went along for the ride. This probe explored Saturn’s moon Titan, which is larger than Mercury and is the only moon in the solar system with a dense atmosphere.
Although Cassini will burn up in Saturn’s atmosphere, its scientific findings will live on, providing scientists with a wealth of data that will help to pave the way for future missions.
1. Cassini’s launch
2. Saturn before arrival
3. In the shadow of Saturn
4. Storm erupts on Saturn
5. Saturn’s famous rings
6. Many moons of Saturn
7. First photos from Titan
8. The icy moon Enceladus
9. Enceladus’ plumes of water
10. The aurora glows above Saturn