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

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.

» RELATED: What to know about NASA’s Cassini spacecraft and its historic grand finale

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.

Recommended for you

Recommended for you

Recommended for you

Most read

  1. 1 Georgia leaders try to stem Hollywood revolt after Kemp’s win
  2. 2 As another season passes, Cobb in dark about final Braves stadium cost
  3. 3 Down and surely out: The fading Falcons fall to 4-6

At that point, the beloved NASA spacecraft burned up and shortly came apart, officially becoming a part of Saturn itself.

» RELATED: NASA astronaut captures eerie images of Hurricane Irma’s destruction from space

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.

» RELATED: The next total solar eclipse is only 7 years away — 14 states where you’ll experience totality in 2024

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. (NASA)
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. (NASA)

For more photos and information about Cassini’s grand finale, visit

You can also catch more photos from the final dive at

And be sure to watch NASA’s team recap of the final plunge at 9:30 a.m. EST below:

More from AJC