Nasa's Cassini probe ends its 4.9bn-mile mission

US Spacecraft Cassini Readies for Fiery Plunge Into Saturn After 13-Year Mission

The same might be true for Cassini's place in pop culture. The scientists are very much satisfied and amazed with the detailed works of Cassini and depicted this mission as a revolutionary one. Saturn has been Cassini's home for the last 13 years.

Launched in 1997 with the European Space Agency's (ESA) Huygens probe, Cassini is the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn.

Along its way, Cassini (and its Titan-bound companion, the atmospheric entry probe Huygens) captured hundreds of thousands of images and taught us more about Saturn, its rings and many moons. But outside those two communities, what will serve as the tangible reminders of the mission?

After all of its contributions to our understanding of Saturn and the outer solar system, Cassini has been on a doomed trajectory since April.

The closest the mission seems to have come to inspiring a commercially-produced model was in the form of a happy meal toy. The spacecraft will then be reconfigured into "bent-pipe" mode, Maize said, transmitting data from some instruments in real time back to Earth, including measurements of the composition of the planet's atmosphere.

In 2004, Cassini became a "Cool Kids Combo" meal toy offered by Hardee's and Carl's Jr. fast food restaurants. "It'll be a mixture of sadness and pride and joy at having worked on the mission and saying goodbye to my Cassini family". "My point of view is that there should be an ocean worlds exploration program", Lunine says. Cassini's sacrifice will be remembered for ever. During the spring equinox, Cassini could capture the way the sunlight hit Saturn's rings edge-on, allowing researchers to measure the summits of mountains they saw rising from the rings.

Cassini's mission will end because the aircraft is running low on fuel. Better that, they figured, than Cassini accidentally colliding with a moon that might harbor life and contaminating it.

"In terms of cultural impacts of Cassini, I think it has had a greater influence on art", said Emily Lakdawalla, the senior editor and planetary evangelist for The Planetary Society. "What would it look like if I could hold a ring particle in my hand?"

"Cassini is not built for the atmosphere", Maize said.

"The scientific legacy of the mission will extend long beyond its fiery end in the clouds of Saturn".

If you're a Cassini fan-and the mission has picked up quite a few, including adorable six-year-olds-that's always going to be little sad.

Scientists in Australia will be responsible for controlling the probe's final descent. However, signal reception is generally used to mark mission times to avoid confusion.

When the Voyager and Pioneer missions passed Saturn, they noticed that the ringed planet produced a very different infrared glow than its cousin Jupiter. "We did it.' Cassini was so profoundly, scientifically successful", said planetary scientist Carolyn Porco at the University of California, Berkeley.

To study Saturn and its moons from close up and in the process learn more about the solar system and how it was formed.

First there was the sheer distance involved.

"We have a whole set of commands that we have ready to go", Berkeley said. Over the mission, the northern hemisphere shifted from a bluish hue to the more familiar golden tones as the shadows cast by Saturn's rings moved south.

That data could help understand how the planet formed and evolved.

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