NASA’s 20-year-old Cassini mission concluded Friday with the spacecraft burning up in the ringed planet Saturn’s atmosphere. Here’s a look at how far the mission has come:
4.9 billion miles traveled
7 years traveling from Earth to Saturn
13 years in orbit
264 orbits, including 22 between Saturn and its rings
6 moons discovered
$3.26 billion dollars spent
5,000 contributors to the mission
3 space agencies working together: NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.
Less than 2 minutes to destroy
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, the robotic explorer of Saturn and its ocean moons, died shortly after 4:55 a.m. Friday after burning up in the ringed gas giant’s atmosphere.
Cassini was exactly a month away from its 20th year in space.
It took the transmission to travel millions of miles to reach Earth 86 minutes after the spaceship perished.
“We just heard the signal from the spacecraft is gone and within the next 45 seconds so will be the spacecraft,” announced Earl Maize, Cassini’s project manager, over mission control’s radio shortly before 5 a.m. “Congratulations to you all. This has been an incredible mission, an incredible spacecraft and an incredible team.”
• Photos: A final goodbye
Cassini was estimated to last about 1 1/2 minutes in Saturn’s atmosphere before high temperatures ripped it apart and melted components. In reality, the loss of signal came 30 seconds later than predicted through a mix of delays and strong engineering, Maize said.
NASA planned Cassini’s destruction nearly seven years ago and used a gravity assist during a flyby of Saturn’s moon…
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