- 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.
According to scientists at NASA’s Deep Space Network in Canberra, Australia, Earth received Cassini’s final signal at 7:55 a.m. EST.
One minute earlier, the spacecraft entered Saturn’s atmosphere from about 1,190 miles above the planet’s cloud tops and 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.
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.
On Thursday, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft took its final images before plunging to its death Friday morning.
Take a look at some of Cassini’s final snaps:
For more photos and information about Cassini’s grand finale, visit saturn.jpl.nasa.gov.
You can also catch more photos from the final dive at flickr.com.
And be sure to watch NASA’s team recap of the final plunge at 9:30 a.m. EST below: