This is an artist’s conception of Cassini doing one of its exploratory dives between Saturn and its innermost ring (Image courtesy of NASA)
After 20 years in the cold void of space, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft ran out of fuel and crashed into Saturn. This sounds like a very expensive failure by NASA—-but it is NOT! , here’s why:
This year, 2017, marks the 13th year Cassini has been orbiting Saturn after a seven-year trip from Earth. Rocket fuel was running low as its last fuel amount was used for adjusting its course before mission operators would lose control of the course of the spacecraft. This was expected and planned.
One of Cassini’s amazing pieces of data was that the two moons of Saturn, Enceladus and Titan, have the potential to contain habitable – or at least “prebiotic” – environments; that is, they are capable of stimulating bacteria growth in a Primordial Soup .
NASA has chosen to safely disintegrate the spacecraft in Saturn’s atmosphere to avoid the unlikely possibility of Cassini someday colliding with one of those two moons, keeping them more pristine for future exploration and detailed examination. In this way Cassini will not contaminate any future studies of habitability and potential life on those moons.
Cassini had 12 science instruments which collected a wide range of information about the Saturnian environment. These sophisticated devices took images across the infrared, visible and ultraviolet light spectra, detected dust particles, and characterized Saturn's plasma environment and magnetosphere. (Image courtesy of NASA)
According to NASA, Cassini has been one of the most scientifically rich voyages yet undertaken in our solar system.
Witness the grand finale and see Cassini’s amazing journey here in a computer-animation by NASA.