NASA’s Cassini spacecraft disintegrated in the skies above Saturn on September 15, 2017 in a final, fateful blaze of cosmic glory, following a remarkable journey of 20 years.
Dutiful to the end, the Cassini snapped its “last memento photos” on September 14 and sampled Saturn’s atmosphere on September 15 morning as it made its final plunge.
Programme manager Earl Maize made the official pronouncement. “This has been an incredible mission, an incredible spacecraft and you’re all an incredible team,” Maize said. “I’m going to call this the end of mission.”
Flight controllers wearing matching purple shirts stood and embraced and shook hands.
More than 1,500 people, many of them past and present team members, had gathered at California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for what was described as both a vigil and celebration. Even more congregated at nearby California Institute of Technology, which runs the lab for NASA.