The Cassini spacecraft nears its voyage end - and a 70000 miles per hour crash

Lawrence Kim
September 14, 2017

Its fuel exhausted, its missions to explore Saturn and its moons triumphantly fulfilled, the two-and-a-half-ton vehicle will burn up as it falls into the red planet's atmosphere.

It's been NASA's plan for months, but now that it's here it's an incredibly bittersweet moment: Cassini, the spacecraft which has sent back some jaw-dropping images and data from Saturn, is currently making its final plunge towards the planet, and it won't survive the trip. Its final act will be to destroy itself on Saturn rather than risk a collision with one of the moons...

The probe was scheduled to come back into contact with Earth the following day, on September 12, at around 06:19 p.m. PDT or 09:19 p.m. EDT.

Cassini also seemed to have something of an underground fandom built up around it, with users on Twitter sending around favorite photos or lamenting about the end of the beloved mission.

As the spacecraft is once again back online, it also began streaming back the data it gathered during its latest encounter with the moon.

You can track the current position of Cassini, relative to Saturn, on NASA's live-updating tracker.

Cassini, the most distant planetary orbiter ever launched, is closing in on its doom.

"The spacecraft's final signal will be like an echo", said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at JPL.

The dive that Cassini is now performing is the very last part of its Grand Finale which included 22 spectacular dives through Saturn's iconic rings.

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