Cassini Ends Saturn Exhibition With a Bang After 13 Years

Nasa intentionally crashed the Cassini Probe into Sturn after a 13 year journey around Saturn´s moons, while lacking the fuel to return to Earth.

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Photo Courtesy of www.nasa.gov

After traveling 4.9 billion miles over 20 years, the Cassini-Huygens Orbiter ended in its mission with a bang, deliberately crashing into Saturn on September 15, 2017.

The spacecraft was made up of two main parts: the Cassini orbiter and the Huygens probe. The Huygens probe was equipped for 27 diverse scientific investigations and the Cassini orbiter was equipped with 12 instruments to thoroughly explore all the important elements that Saturn may uncover, according to NASA. Cassini had launched in 1997 and arrived the ringed-planet in 2004, Cassini has been circling Saturn for 13 years. NASA settled the probe into Saturn on September 15, 2004.

Because Cassini had used up nearly all of its rocket propellant that it had carried to Saturn, NASA had the orbiter crash into Saturn, according to The Washington Post.

If it had become space junk, it would have crashed onto Enceladus or Titan, both moons orbiting Saturn, which could contaminate the surfaces of those moons. Scientists plan to investigate these moons for evidence of alien life, reported MNN.

“Cassini may be gone, but its scientific bounty will keep us occupied for many years,” says Linda Spilker, Cassini Project Scientist, “We’ve only scratched the surface of what we can learn from the mountain of data it has sent back over its lifetime,” she also added.

NASA assigned Cassini’s final assignment in April 2017. The probe was placed on impact course that would unfold over a five month period. It had featured a series of 22 orbits that had passed through the 1,200-mile-wide gap between Saturn and its rings, according to MNN. Once the probe lost signal, the mission was called to an end and every celebrated, according to the Washington Post. “Things never will be quite the same for those of us on the Cassini team now that the spacecraft is no longer flying,” says Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at JPL.

Having spent decades working with Cassini, many NASA scientists  came to see Cassini as more as a living being instead of a “machine” referring to the Orbiter as “she.”

Some NASA scientists even described her to be curious, intelligent, determined, and valor, according to the The Washington Post.

“It’s very heartwarming,” explained  Earl Maize, the Cassini program manager,“It’s not science in the ivory tower. It’s for humanity”, he also added.

Although NASA does not currently have anymissions in progress to return to Saturn, according toThe Washington Post, NASA will be analyzing the information it has brought back for many years to learn more about the planet itself and what lies on it.