Cassini is dead; long live Cassini. On the evening of 14 September, the Cassini spacecraft sent back its final images of the Saturn system. Early this morning, it sank into the top of the giant planet’s atmosphere and melted. It survived about 30 seconds longer than scientists expected.
The epic mission’s legacy will live on in the thousands of pictures it has taken and the data that will fuel new scientific results for decades to come.
“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. “You walk around the downstairs, as you go upstairs, you run your fingers along the banister, you look at your old room and memories across the years come flooding back.”
“And in the same way, Cassini is taking a last look around the Saturn system, Cassini’s home for the last 13 years,” she said. “With those pictures come heartwarming memories.”
Cassini’s final pictures included a series showing the icy moon Enceladus setting behind Saturn. Before the mission, this tiny world was thought to be frozen solid, but Cassini revealed that it has a subsurface ocean that may be ripe for life.To read more and view the video, click here.