Scientists bereft over end of Cassini's extraordinary mission

Cassini has begun transmitting the final images of its mission revealing a last look at Saturn and its rings before the spacecraft plunges into the planet's atmosphere. This image was captured on September 13

This image of Saturn's northern hemisphere was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on September 13, 2017.

The Cassini-Huygens mission, launched on October 15, 1997, was a joint endeavor of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency and was the first mission to orbit Saturn and explore its environs in detail.

The mission helped planetary scientists discover water on some of Saturn's moons, opening up the possibility of life elsewhere in our solar system. Finish was spectacular - Cassini entered upper atmosphere of Saturn 1900 km over the planet's surface with speed of 113 000 km/h. Scientists also recognize, basing on data gathered by Cassini, that on Enceladus, Titan and Dione it is possible that under ice cover could be not frozen oceans. It's mission was twice extended, adding dozens of flybys of the icy moons. In fact, Cassini's fatal plunge into Saturn was made to prevent the spacecraft from potentially infecting Saturn's moons with Earth bacteria, which might upset the extraterrestrial ecology or even wipe out undiscovered life.

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