In September 2017, NASA’s spacecraft Cassini will end its 20-year-mission – 13 of them spent in the orbit of Saturn – by plunging into the planet. Before that, though, it’s busy transmitting new images of its fantastic journey past Saturn and its rings.
The dive took place last week, and the spacecraft managed to get close-ups of Saturn’s clouds as it smoothly plummeted from 72,420 kilometers above the atmosphere to a height of just 6,759 kilometers. Towards the end of the video, which strings together these images, a framing change takes place for Cassini to protect its antenna from striking the small rocks and particles around the planet’s rings.
Cassini will end its “grand finale” after 22 orbits, less than 3,218 kilometers above Saturn’s atmosphere.