NASA's Cassini spacecraft begins final approach to Saturn: See pics

These are the last close-up photos of Saturn we may see in decades

The spacecraft didn't quite die when it hit Saturn, as a tiny trace of it - its final radio signals - reached Earth 83 minutes later.

Armed with a one-megapixel camera, then considered state-of-the-art, the Cassini spacecraft began its seven year voyage to Saturn. Cassini has provided a total of 453,000 images of Saturn along with its rings and moons.

Cassini revealed wet, exotic worlds that might harbor life: the moons Enceladus and Titan.

According to NASA, one of the final pieces of data captured by the spacecraft was an infrared photo it took while plummeting to the planet. Early on Friday, Cassini plunged into Saturn's atmosphere, but it sent back one final image before its destruction.

But Cassini is running out of fuel, and mission team members want to dispose of the spacecraft responsibly before it escapes their control. "I think everybody - their jaws were just kind of open, going 'Oh wow, the signal just disappeared.' I think we all thought it happened a bit faster than we thought it would", Sturm said.

As Cassini lost signals, flight controllers wearing purple shirts stood and hugged each other and shook hands.

Many gathered at nearby California Institute of Technology, which runs the lab for NASA. After 13 years of exploring Saturn and its moons, the spacecraft will deliberately plunge at over 75,000 miles per hour into the planet and ultimately be destroyed by the weight and temperature of the atmosphere.

"So we're here today to cheer as Cassini finishes that race", she said. They also found a global ocean on the moon Enceladus, with ice plumes spouting from its surface. Some of the highlights include finding vertical structures on Saturn's rings, landing the Huygens probe on Titan, photographing Titan's surprisingly Earth-like frozen landscape, finding saline flats that show Titan could support life and finding water on the tiny moon Enceladus (for more, see our summary here). This demise prevented the probe from contaminating any of Saturn's potentially life-bearing moons.

The Cassini probe's mission is about to come to and end, as scientists prepare to crash it into Saturn.

Twenty-two times, Cassini entered the gap and came out again.

The newly arrived images are a fitting coda for Cassini's mission - diverse and lovely.

Cassini snapped its last image from a distance of 394,000 miles (634,000 kilometers) away.

Its death plunge into the ringed gas giant - the furthest planet visible from Earth with the naked eye - is scheduled for shortly after the spacecraft's final contact with Earth at 7:55 am (1155 GMT). It was an worldwide endeavor, with 27 nations taking part. The total cost of the mission was $3.9 billion.

Related:

  • Baby No. 2 on way for Adam Levine and wife Behati Prinsloo

    Baby No. 2 on way for Adam Levine and wife Behati Prinsloo

    Maroon 5 is now prepping their new studio album while Prinsloo is gearing up for Victoria's Secret Fashion in Shanghai, China. To some, Behati's second pregnancy will not come as a surprise. "I'm an only child so I wanted like 10 kids.for sure".
    Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin Press Conference Live Stream & Video

    Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin Press Conference Live Stream & Video

    As Golovkin struggled to maintain the energy of the bigger man, the latter claimed later that GGG is not all he's made up to be. Canelo Alvarez Fight: Need to KnowWhere Is It? Styles really do make fights, and these are two fighters with explosive styles.
    Ryan School Murder Case: Parents protesting subjected to a mild lathi charge

    Ryan School Murder Case: Parents protesting subjected to a mild lathi charge

    The victim's father expressed doubts about the way the investigation is being carried out and demanded a CBI probe . Reportedly, many people received injuries after the police resorted to lathicharge the gathering outside the gate.
  • Trump mulls capping refugee quota at lowest level since 1980

    Trump mulls capping refugee quota at lowest level since 1980

    Both moves were overturned in federal courts until the Supreme Court agreed in June to review the ban this October. With the Supreme Court's order on Tuesday, these have prevented the above rulings from going into effect for now.
    Taiwan's Chan Hao-ching and partner trounced in US Open final

    Taiwan's Chan Hao-ching and partner trounced in US Open final

    Murray and Hingis had already won Wimbledon in July while Saturday's triumph took their record as a team to a ideal 10-0. Murray, the older brother of two-time Wimbledon champion Andy, won his third Grand Slam mixed doubles title.
    Abe, Moon agree on urging Russia, China to act on Pyongyang

    Abe, Moon agree on urging Russia, China to act on Pyongyang

    He said UNSC must act to stop North Korea from continuing such actions and should put maximum pressure to change its policy. North Koreans remember the 2003 USA invasion of Iraq over Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons programme, Mr Putin reasoned.
  • Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh

    Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh

    Officials have blamed insurgents and Rohingya themselves for burning villages to draw global attention to their cause. Instead, it blames Rohingya militants of committing the atrocities, including burning their own villages.
    Supreme Court agrees to temporary block on new refugees

    Supreme Court agrees to temporary block on new refugees

    Under the terms of Trump's order, the 90-day travel ban would end before the arguments even happen - on September 27. The government had asked for a "temporary administrative stay" to give the justices time to consider the issue.
    U California Sues Trump Over DACA Repeal

    U California Sues Trump Over DACA Repeal

    Roth said the estimated annual GDP loss in SC if DACA recipients lose their work permits would be about $265 million dollars. The average hourly wage of those who worked before DACA was $10.29; the average hourly wage of those who work now is $17.46.
  • Jose predicted to become tropical storm

    Jose predicted to become tropical storm

    After the Caribbean was left devastated by Hurricane Irma last week , there was worry that Jose could do further damage. The report added that "tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 115 miles from the center".
    SpaceX releases 'blooper reel' of failed rocket landings

    SpaceX releases 'blooper reel' of failed rocket landings

    Since the beginning, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has stressed the importance of making the company's rockets reusable. The video shows a range of issues, including exploding rockets, engine sensor failures and a sticky throttle valve.
    Category 4 Hurricane Irma bearing down on Florida Keys

    Category 4 Hurricane Irma bearing down on Florida Keys

    Last October, Hurricane Matthew knocked out 1.2 million FPL customers as it skirted Florida's east coast without making landfall. Its outer bands were also blowing into Georgia, where the storm's center was expected to arrive later in the day.

Comments

Latest news

ESPN Distances Itself From Jemele Hill's "Trump Is a White Supremacist" Comments
And there are no other ways, as far as I'm concerned, to look at it, justify it, and there shouldn't be any reason not to say so". In a statement Tuesday, ESPN said Hill's comments about Trump "do not represent the position" of the network.

Spain threatens 712 Catalan mayors with arrest for independence poll
In a survey by the Catalan Centre of Opinion Studies in July, 41.1 percent backed independence while 49.9 percent rejected it. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government is increasing the pressure to prevent an independence referendum from going ahead.

Hurricane Jose spares storm-ravaged French Caribbean islands
But many like Tejera are struggling to maintain a semblance of the life they had before Irma as they fight off hunger and thirst. Reuters/Christophe Ena/Pool France's President Emmanuel Macron talks with a resident during his visit to St Martin yesterday.

Man Utd v FC Basel: Hosts set to make thrilling winning start
The Manchester United defence needs to be up to the mark today, as Basel boast of a star poacher in Ricky van Wolfswinkel . He said: "To be back in the Champions League is just to go back to the natural habitat for Manchester United ".

Tank failures in Harvey reveal vulnerabilities in storm
The measure will replenish depleted emergency accounts as Florida braces for Hurricane Irma and Texas recovers from Harvey.

Teva appoints new chief executive after months of speculation
Additionally Teva Pharmaceutical Industries recently announced a dividend that will be paid on Thursday September 14th, 2017. Hudock Capital Group LLC boosted its position in Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Limited by 37.6% in the second quarter.

Hurricane Jose continues to meander in the Atlantic
Jose is now located about 400 miles north of the northern Leeward Islands and is moving northwest. But models can have trouble forecasting unusual tracks such as Jose's expected path.

Tech, Insurers Lead Wall Street Rally As Irma, North Korea Fears Ease
Rising tensions between the US and North Korea have weighed on stocks in recent weeks and raised the prices of gold and bonds. In foreign exchange, the European single currency was trading down at $1.1978 compared with $1.2030 late in NY on Friday.

Miss America 2018 Crowned
Miss Texas Margana Wood gave a shout-out to her flooded hometown, Houston; she won Wednesday night's swimsuit preliminary. As if being a future lawyer isn't enough, Mund is socially aware and conscious of the many problems facing the U.S.

Here's what Trump's top aide thinks his biggest mistake was
In the video, which was obtained by the Washington Post , Donald Trump talked with Billy Bush about groping women. Steve Bannon: That would probably be too bombastic, even for me, but maybe in modern political history .

Lady Gaga 'taking a rest' from music
In a new documentary, the singer reveals that at the time of the split in July 2016, she and Kinney were not in a great place. The Netflix film Gaga: Five Foot Two is an intimate look into the personal life of Gaga, born Stefani Joanne Germanotta.

Policeman's body found in Mexico, quake toll 65
Though seismic activity is common in Mexico , officials said Thursday's quake was the strongest to hit the country in 100 years. Mexico sits atop five tectonic plates, whose movement makes it one of the most seismically active countries in the world.

More Than 1 Million Without Power in Florida
Rick Scott says at least 76,000 people are without power as Irma unleashes winds and rain on the state. On Sunday, Gould said its nuclear plants were safe.

Seoul deploys anti-missile system; USA seeks tougher sanctions
Japan's Kyodo news agency reported that Abe and Moon would seek Russian and Chinese support for new sanctions against the North. Since then, North Korea has launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles and conducted its sixth nuclear test.

Terrorist attack police party, one cop killed
The SHO had reportedly requisitioned a bullet-proof vehicle in view of the danger posed by terrorists, but was not provided one. Siah said the reason they met the minister this time was that the tourism industry had been battered by two years of unrest.

Other news