Cassini is no more: Probe crashes into Saturn

The NASA probe has been ripped apart by Saturn's atmosphere
By Brooks Hays   |   Sept. 14, 2017 at 12:44 PM
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Sept. 15 (UPI) -- NASA's Cassini probe is no more. NASA confirmed scientists lost contact with the probe at 7:55 a.m. EDT Friday. During the predawn hours, the spacecraft dipped into the Saturn clouds and was ripped apart.

The probe's final dip ends Cassini's 13-year mission exploring Saturn and its moons.

Cassini has spent the last two months executing a series of intimate dives through Saturn's rings and into its upper atmosphere, collecting invaluable scientific data.

Friday's final dive brought the probe closer to the surface of Saturn than ever before. On its way through the gas giant's upper atmosphere, Cassini pulsed its thrusters to keep its antennae pointed at Earth in order to transmit scientific data until tis final moments.

Upon final approach, Cassini was traveling at speeds of about 70,000 mph.

The probe's death dive was actually carried out at roughly 6:31 a.m. EDT, but the delay and distance between Saturn and Earth caused NASA to continue receiving the probe's final radio signals for another 83 minutes after.

"We call loss of signal," NASA officials reported during the live stream of the mission's end.

"Cassini showed us the beauty of Saturn. It revealed the best in us. Now it's up to us to keep exploring," the probe's Twitter handle tweeted in a final goodbye.

As it was with the probe's previous Grand Finale flybys, seven of Cassini's instruments, including its ion and neutral mass spectrometer, were activated during its final trip into Saturn's clouds. NASA shared a few of the photos captured by the probe's cameras final moments.

In the coming weeks and months, NASA scientists will be sorting through the massive amounts of data for unique insights into the composition of Saturn's atmosphere.

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