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Posted: September 15, 2017

These are the last images ever taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft

With this view, NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured one of its last looks at Saturn and its main rings from a distance on Sept. 11, 2017. The Saturn system was Cassini's home for 13 years.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
With this view, NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured one of its last looks at Saturn and its main rings from a distance on Sept. 11, 2017. The Saturn system was Cassini's home for 13 years.

By Fiza Pirani, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

After a remarkable 20-year voyage in space, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made its grand exit Friday as it disintegrated into Saturn’s atmosphere.

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According to scientists at NASA’s Deep Space Network in Canberra, Australia, Earth received Cassini’s final signal at 7:55 a.m. ET.

One minute earlier, the spacecraft entered Saturn’s atmosphere from about 1,190 miles above the planet’s cloud tops at a speed of approximately 70,000 miles per hour.

At that point, the beloved NASA spacecraft burned up and shortly came apart, officially becoming a part of Saturn itself.

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Scientists chose this dramatic, fiery send-off because they didn’t want to risk Cassini colliding with any of Saturn’s moons.

But it was a bittersweet goodbye for Cassini.

Launched in October 1997, the $3.2 billion collaborative mission between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency led to a number of monumental discoveries, especially during the Cassini spacecraft’s 13-plus years on Saturn.

>> Related: NASA says it’s not running a child slave colony on Mars

On Thursday, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft took its final images before plunging to its death Friday morning.


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