Speed Reads

The final frontier

NASA's Cassini spacecraft takes its final bow today, after 13 years exploring Saturn

On Friday, after 20 years in space and 13 years orbiting Saturn, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will burn up in Saturn's atmosphere. "We've had an incredible 13-year journey around Saturn, returning data like a giant firehose, just flooding us with data," said Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Almost like we've taken a magnifying glass to the planet and the rings."

Cassini lifted off from Cape Canaveral in 1997, reaching Saturn in 2004 and, six months later, discharging its passenger, the European Space Agency's Huygens lander, which successfully parachuted down onto the giant moon Titan. In April, with Cassini's fuel depleting, NASA sent it on 22 trips between Saturn and its rings, beginning its final journey which ends on Friday. You can read more about Cassini's journey in John Wenz's love letter to "NASA's greatest achievement" at The Week, or let NASA do its own bragging in the lovely video below.

Godspeed, Cassini.