The universe said farewell to one of its greatest photographers today, and NASA scientists can barely hold it together.
The Cassini spacecraft made a planned but dramatic departure from Saturn’s orbit, crashing into the planet in the hope of ensuring that Saturn’s moons remain unharmed by debris. “What a way to go,” said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at JPL. “Truly a blaze of glory.”
Loss of contact with the Cassini spacecraft occurred at 4:55 a.m. PDT (7:55 a.m. EDT), with the signal received by NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna complex in Canberra, Australia, per a press release.
“It’s a bittersweet, but fond, farewell to a mission that leaves behind an incredible wealth of discoveries that have changed our view of Saturn and our solar system, and will continue to shape future missions and research,” said Michael Watkins, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, which manages the Cassini mission for the agency.
“Things never will be quite the same for those of us on the Cassini team now that the spacecraft is no longer flying,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at JPL. “But, we take comfort knowing that every time we look up at Saturn in the night sky, part of Cassini will be there, too.”
Is that a piece of stardust in your eye?