September 19, 2017

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Cassini's Saturn Mission Goes Out In A Blaze Of Glory

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Still from a computer-animated film depicting Cassini’s final orbits. NASA/JPL hide caption

toggle caption NASA/JPL

Updated at 8 a.m. ET

Controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory sent a final command Friday morning to the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn. Not long after, accounting for the vast distance the message traveled, the order was received, putting the craft into a suicidal swan dive, plunging into the ringed planet’s atmosphere.

At about 7:55 a.m. ET, Project Manager Earl Maize called “end of mission” after the team lost communications from the spacecraft as it began to breakup in Saturn’s atmosphere.

“Congratulations to you all,” Maize announced to applause. “It’s been an incredible mission, incredible spacecraft, and you are an incredible team.”

Cassini’s Saturn Mission Goes Out In A Blaze Of Glory

A small sample of some of the 400,000 images shot by Cassini during its mission to Saturn.

Hide caption With giant Saturn hanging in the blackness and sheltering Cassini from the sun’s blinding glare, the spacecraft viewed the rings as never before. A photo returned in Feb. 2016. Previous Next NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

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