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

9:34 a.m. Friday, Sept. 15, 2017 National/World News

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:

Before the plunge: Image of Saturn's northern hemisphere taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Sept. 13, 2017.
NASA
Image of Saturn's outer A ring featuring the small moon Daphnis and the waves it raises in the edges of the Keeler Gap.
NASA
Saturn's A ring featuring a lone "propeller," one of many such features created by small moonlets embedded in the planet's rings as they unsuccessfully attempt to open gaps in the ring material.
The final image: Imaging cameras on NASA's Cassini spacecraft show Saturn as it looks toward the planet's night side and shows the location at which Cassini would burn up and enter the planet's atmosphere hours later.
NASA
A natural color view of Cassini's final image.

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.

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