The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Cassini spacecraft will end its 13-year mission to Saturn on September 15. Cassini, the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn, will make its final 22 dives between the planet’s rings and its surface before taking the final plunge to its impending destruction.
The spacecraft is low on fuel. Nasa is crashing it to avoid any collisions with Saturn’s moons, to ensure that no microbes from the Earth on Cassini contaminate the moons for future studies.
“The Cassini mission has been packed full of scientific firsts, and our unique planetary revelations will continue to the very end of the mission as Cassini becomes Saturn’s first planetary probe, sampling Saturn’s atmosphere up until the last second,” Linda Spilker, a scientist working with Nasa’s Cassini project, told Forbes.
Cassini has been orbiting Saturn and its 62 known moons since July 2004. It has provided much information about the planet – that Saturn has seasons, that it’s moon Titan looks like the early Earth and that its other moon Enceladus could possibly support life in the solar system.
“The mission has been insanely, wildly, beautifully successful, and it is coming to an end in about two weeks,” said Cassini Programme Scientist Curt Niebuhr.