Cassini's mission to come to fiery end Friday in Saturn's atmosphere


Images and data from Saturn's moons Titan and Enceladus hint at the possibility of life never before suspected. The spacecraft has completed many moon flybys while observing seasonal changes on Saturn and Titan.

So, to Saturn, Cassini wouldn't just say goodbye, it will also take one last look at its two moons before it makes a depth dive into the planet atmosphere and explodes like a meteor, thereby making the end of its 13-year mission. This extended stay has permitted observations of the long-term variability of the planet, moons, rings and magnetosphere, observations not possible from short, flyby-style missions.

The geometry of the flyby causes Cassini to slow down slightly in its orbit around Saturn.

During those hundreds of passes, Cassini's discovered liquid seas and lakes made of liquid methane.

On Friday, the 15 September, Cassini will send itself into Saturn, nearly 20 years since it left Earth. It has gathered data while the planet was at Equinox and researchers believe that all these measures will prove vital to understand Saturn and other gas giants which are farther away from our planet Earth.

The Cassini-Huygens mission has revolutionized our knowledge of the Saturn system and revealed surprising places in the solar system where life could potentially gain a foothold-bodies we call ocean worlds. One of them being the planet's magnetosphere. The gas clouds which form the surface moves with it and is disturbed by the planet's intricate magnetic field thus making it hard to anticipate the length of a day on Saturn. Because of insufficient fuel, it would fail and might end up being in a state where the navigation crew loses its control.

Until Cassini's arrival at Saturn in 2004, humanity had never viewed Saturn up close and personal.

In the mission Grand Finale, the fateful spacecraft dive is the final beat, 22 weekly dives through the gap within Saturn and its rings. With only 3 days left, Cassini is still capturing and sending every bit of information which might stand valuable in future.

Cassini will have been destroyed for about 83 minutes before its final signal reaches NASA's Deep Space Network's Canberra station in Australia.