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These are the last images ever taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft

Published: Friday, September 15, 2017 @ 11:48 AM
By: Fiza Pirani, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

After a remarkable 20-year voyage in space, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made its grand exit Friday as it disintegrated into Saturn’s atmosphere.

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According to scientists at NASA’s Deep Space Network in Canberra, Australia, Earth received Cassini’s final signal at 7:55 a.m. ET.

One minute earlier, the spacecraft entered Saturn’s atmosphere from about 1,190 miles above the planet’s cloud tops at a speed of approximately 70,000 miles per hour.

At that point, the beloved NASA spacecraft burned up and shortly came apart, officially becoming a part of Saturn itself.

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Scientists chose this dramatic, fiery send-off because they didn’t want to risk Cassini colliding with any of Saturn’s moons.

But it was a bittersweet goodbye for Cassini.

Launched in October 1997, the $3.2 billion collaborative mission between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency led to a number of monumental discoveries, especially during the Cassini spacecraft’s 13-plus years on Saturn.

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On Thursday, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft took its final images before plunging to its death Friday morning.