After a long 20-year journey and a 13-year lonesome tenure touring Saturn, the NASA spacecraft Cassini is intentionally taking the plunge and will crash into the planet early tomorrow morning. This is the first time a spacecraft has ventured so close to Saturn’s surface.
Cassini has spent the last five months exploring and documenting the uncharted space between the Saturn and its incredible rings, sending back to Earth dazzling photos and data. It’s using its final operating moments beaming back near-real time information about Saturn’s atmosphere as we speak.
According to NASA, we are expecting to lose contact with Cassini around 7:55 AM ET on Friday, September 15 when the spacecraft will be rendered unoperational by Saturn’s atmosphere.
“The spacecraft’s final signal will be like an echo. It will radiate across the solar system for nearly an hour and a half after Cassini itself has gone,” said Cassini project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, Earl Maize. “Even though we’ll know that, at Saturn, Cassini has already met its fate, its mission isn’t truly over for us on Earth as long as we’re still receiving its signal.”
NASA will live-stream the event on Friday, September 15 at 7:00 AM ET, and will follow up after the event with live mission commentary from JPL Mission Control and a post-morning news briefing. In the mean time, NASA has begun posting the final raw images taken by Cassini as it dives into Saturn’s atmosphere. For further details on Cassini’s trajectory and more, read here.
Don’t miss NASA’s live-stream: