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