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NASA's Cassini spacecraft takes its final plunge into Saturn

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NASA's Cassini spacecraft takes its final plunge into Saturn

Postby MrFredPFL » Fri Sep 15, 2017 2:00 pm

Story :

After traversing the solar system for almost 20 years and delivering a trove of valuable data and gorgeous photos of Saturn, the Cassini spacecraft plunged into the ringed planet's atmosphere Friday on a mission of self-destruction.

At 4:55 am PT, NASA tweeted that it had received the probe's final signal, signifying that it's "now part of the planet it studied." NASA intentionally fired Cassini's thrusters so it would burn up in Saturn's dense atmosphere, rather than crashing it into -- and possibly contaminating -- one of the planet's moons.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's science mission directorate, called the event the final chapter of an amazing mission. "But it's also a new beginning," he said in a statement. "Cassini's discovery of ocean worlds at Titan and Enceladus changed everything, shaking our views to the core about surprising places to search for potential life beyond Earth."

Launched on Oct. 15, 1997, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, as a joint operation of NASA, the European Space Agency and Italy's space agency, Cassini made 294 orbits of the ringed planet. In January 2005, Cassini successfully landed a probe called Huygens on the surface of Saturn's largest moon, Titan.

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