Nasa's Cassini probe ends its 4.9bn-mile mission

Cassini has spent the past 13 years exploring Saturn, its dramatic rings and its icy moons.

The same might be true for Cassini's place in pop culture.

Cassini was launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004.

A flyby of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, on September 11 put Cassini on an irreversible trajectory for that final encounter with the planet.

The end of the mission is created to protect Saturn's moons Titan and Enceladus, which have the potential to support life.

On Thursday afternoon, NASA's $3.3 billion Cassini spacecraft will capture one final image: A close-up of its eventual killer, the gas giant Saturn.

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"Its true legacy is how NASA responds to the observations it made and then make decisions on how to utilize those in another series of missions", stated Green. The spacecraft is almost out of fuel, so mission managers wanted to dispose of Cassini safely while they still had control of it. The Grand Finale is necessitated to prevent the possibility of Earthly bacteria that has been living on Cassini for the last 20 years contaminating an object orbiting Saturn - an unlikely but possible occurrence. But outside those two communities, what will serve as the tangible reminders of the mission? "We usually end our missions in a way that doesn't give us a lot of extra science", says Curt Neiber, Cassini's program scientist.

Other space stations in Madrid and California will also help monitor Cassini.

Once it was decided that Cassini has to suffer a fiery death, scientists began planning what data the spacecraft could gather as it enters Saturn's atmosphere.

Why was Cassini's mission significant?

Cassini's sacrifice will be remembered for ever.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft will work hard to the very end.

When was Cassini launched and how long did it take to reach Saturn?

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The United States contributed $2.6 billion to the project, the European Space Agency $500 million and the Italian Space Agency $160 million. For over a decade, Cassini has orbited around Saturn 294 times, collected more than 600 GB of data, visited over a dozen moons and discovered at least seven new ones.

The Royal Mail (UK) issued in 2012 a postage stamp that featured a Cassini image of Saturn and its rings. "It will last not very long and I think we will all shed a tear because it's been a 30-year experience, not only with the spacecraft, but with each other", Larry said. "I have seen a lot of visual artists take images from Saturn, primarily the rings, and use those as motifs, backgrounds or design elements in their art".

"Cassini is not built for the atmosphere", Maize said.

To mark the impending end of the mission, The Planetary Society released a video of its board member, "Star Trek" actor Robert Picardo, performing the "Le Cassini Opera," a humorous, musical farewell to the spacecraft.

"He was so involved in so many different things that at that time the cool things were Galileo and some of the Mars missions", Jason Soderblom, a research scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told International Business Times about his father's involvement with Cassini.

And that's not the only Cassini data that needs further analysis: Even (relatively) basic mass calculations will be textbook-changing discoveries. "And we have been profoundly successful".

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To study Saturn and its moons from close up and in the process learn more about the solar system and how it was formed. It was the first mission to orbit Saturn and explore its environs in detail. "Right now we are on track for making "three-ish" teams very, very happy just in time for Christmas", said Curt Niebur of NASA Headquarters at a September 6 meeting of the Outer Planets Assessment Group, discussing the ongoing evaluation of New Frontiers proposals. "We were able to see Saturn from many different points of view".


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