Fare Thee Well, Cassini
Launched in 1997 and arriving at Saturn in 2004, the Cassini-Huygens mission was a phenomenal success, lasting some 10 years beyond its initial 3 year mission. The spacecraft gave us thousands of pictures of Saturn, gigabytes of scientific data, and launched the Huygens probe into Titan, giving never-before-seen footage of the mysterious methane-shrouded moon. And Cassini also discovered the geysers of the moon Enceladus, which may mean it has a liquid water ocean beneath it’s icy crust.
But today, September 15th, 2017, we say farewell to Cassini. Her last few orbits brought her closer and closer to Saturn, until finally she hit the atmosphere at nearly 70,000 miles per hour and was, well, destroyed. This was done to prevent the dead spacecraft from hitting either Titan or Enceladus and introducing possible biological contamination (however unlikely) to the moons that could (also however unlikely) harbor life.
To read more about Cassini’s Grand Finale check out the article at Space.com, and for all the information you could possibly want about the Cassini mission, check out the Cassini JPL page. And don’t miss Cassini’s Hall of Fame picture gallery!