Check Out Photos of Saturn Sent From the Cassini Probe

Check Out Photos of Saturn Sent From the Cassini Probe”

After a 20 year sojourn in the final frontier, at approximately 5:00 AM PT this morning, NASA's Jet Propulsion laboratory lost contact with the Cassini spacecraft, which had plunged into Saturn's atmosphere about an hour and a half prior, ending its 13-year exploration of the Saturn system.

By now, NASA's Cassini spacecraft at Saturn should be disintegrated in the sky.

During its 13-year mission, Cassini uncovered mysteries of the massive ringed planet.

"The spacecraft will be transmitting data until the very end, and we'll be there when it stops".

Sean Hsu, a scientist at the University of Colorado at Boulder who works on Cassini's Cosmic Dust Analyzer, flew out to Pasadena (to NASA's JPL) with his wife and two children to attend the end-of-mission event.

Nearly two decades after it took off from Earth, NASA scientists captured the final pieces of data from the Cassini spacecraft as it plummeted into Saturn on Friday morning. It looks toward the planet's night side, lit by reflected light from the rings, and shows the location at which the spacecraft would enter the planet's atmosphere hours later.

The spacecraft tumbled out of control while plummeting at more than 76,000 miles per hour. Of the hundreds of moons in our solar system, Titan, with its intriguing pre-biotic chemistry, is the only one with a dense atmosphere and large liquid reservoirs on its surface. Through the eyes of Huygens, people on Earth could watch as the probe hurtled through the opaque and hazy atmosphere enshrouding Titan.

The following are NASA images of Cassini's flight controllers monitoring the final signals received from the spacecraft.

The ESA-built Huygens probe travelled with Cassini and was dropped in 2005 onto Titan, another of Saturn's moons. Titan is mostly made up of methane lakes, while Encleadus has water streaming in the south pole.

Another one of Saturn's moons, ice-clad Enceladus, rose to stardom during several flybys.

Though Cassini didn't have the right instruments to fully test the plumes, the discovery made Enceladus a prime target for future missions and provided compelling evidence for the possibility of life outside of the habitability zone where Earth sits. We would see the rings and moons in ways the Voyager probes never could.

"This mission has been going for so long, it's a little hard to believe that it's over."

With the loss of Cassini, the space around Saturn has gone dark. "It's sad that we're losing this incredible discovery machine", he said in the moments leading up to Cassini's disintegration. "So we're here today to cheer as Cassini finishes that race", she said.

Previous results from the Cassini spacecraft showed Enceladus has chemical energy that indicates life. To avoid a random collision with one of Saturn's moons or Saturn itself (which could have led to contamination of the soil by Earth bacteria), engineers chose to put Cassini in a terminal dive through Saturn's atmosphere, to ensure it burned completely.

"Previously, we saw thunderstorms in Titan's southern hemisphere when it was summer there", he says, "and because it's now the northern summer solstice, we are hoping to see cloud activity and perhaps thunderstorms in the northern hemisphere".

The farewell pictures clicked by Cassini of Saturn were on Thursday while sampling the planet's atmosphere on Friday morning before bidding adieu to the world. The spacecraft will be oriented so that INMS is pointed in the direction of motion, to allow it the best possible access to oncoming atmospheric gases.

Cassini has spent the last two months executing a series of intimate dives through Saturn's rings and into its upper atmosphere, collecting invaluable scientific data.

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