The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s probe Cassini disintegrated in Saturn’s atmosphere on Friday after exploring the planet for 13 years. Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory tweeted, “Our Cassini Saturn spacecraft is now one with the planet it studied for so long. The rest is science.”
The spacecraft exploded in Saturn’s atmosphere at 6.32 am Eastern Time (4.02 pm Indian Standard Time), 83 minutes before radio signals from the probe came to a halt, reported AP. The spacecraft sped out of Nasa’s control after falling at a speed of 1,22,000 kilometres per hour into Saturn’s atmosphere. “In order to avoid the unlikely possibility of Cassini someday colliding with one of Saturn’s moons, Nasa has chosen to safely dispose of the spacecraft in the atmosphere of Saturn,” officials from the organisation’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory had said in a statement earlier this year.
Cassini’s 13-year mission came to an end when its fuel began to run out. Subsequently, Nasa announced that Cassini had flown to within 1,20,000 kilometres of Saturn’s moon Titan on September 11, and had gone into a “death plunge”. On Thursday, Cassini’s cameras took its final images of Saturn.
The probe sent much new information to Earth since it began exploring Saturn in 2004. Cassini revealed a six-sided jet stream on the planet that holds huge hurricane-like storms, CNBC said. The spacecraft flew to Enceladus, a tiny moon with an atmosphere that scientists feel could make it conducive to life. Cassini also dispatched the Huygens lander to one of the planet’s moons Titan, and discovered a vast underground ocean, as well as liquid methane. Overall, Cassini collected more than 4,53,000 images and traveled 49,000 lakh miles (78,857 lakh kilometres).