Cassini sent its final signal early Friday morning before making a fiery plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere — lasting 20 seconds longer than anticipated as it disintegrated.
JPL received its final transmission from the workhorse spacecraft just before 5 a.m. The head of the project made it official: “end of mission.” Applause and tears followed.
Launched in 1997 to study Saturn, approximately 746 million miles away from earth, its rings and its moons, Cassini was the first spacecraft to enter the giant gas planet’s orbit.
While Cassini’s life is over, the treasure trove of data and images it gathered during its nearly two-decade mission will be studied for years.