NASA's Cassini spacecraft burns up in skies over Saturn

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Luke Weaver throws during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Thursday Sept. 14 2017 in St. Louis

NASA's Cassini spacecraft burns up in skies over Saturn

On Friday, planetary scientist and NASA Cassini project team member Jani Radebaugh will watch as the Cassini spacecraft makes its self-destructive flight into Saturn's atmosphere.

"Every time we see Saturn in the night sky, we'll remember".

Cassini, the $4 billion-plus spacecraft, has provided a trove of information about the planet with rings, aiding significant research in its two decades of existence.

Including Titan, Cassini explored a total of 19 Saturnian moons in detail.

"The signal from the spacecraft has gone, and within 45 seconds so will the spacecraft", the project manager of the Cassini mission said.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is on course to its final approach to Saturn, hurling towards the ringed planet at the speed of 113,000 kilometres per hour, to meet the fateful end of its 20-year-long epic journey, the United States space agency said today. But it took that long for the news to reach Earth a billion miles away. "I hope you're all as deeply proud fo this awesome accomplishment".

For the team behind the mission, losing their spacecraft is bittersweet: Many are sad that the mission is over but excited to see the groundbreaking science provided by unprecedented proximity to Saturn during the final dive.

Cassini's final contact with Earth came at 7:55 am EDT (1155 GMT).

Professor John Zarnecki, the President of the Royal Astronomical Society, led one of the 6 instrument teams on Huygens, as it made its successful landing on Saturn's largest moon Titan in 2005 - the first time a spacecraft had touched down on a world in the outer Solar System.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft at Saturn is closing in on its fiery finish, following a remarkable journey of 20 years.

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

"Ultimately, the Cassini mission was about exploring to the very edges of our solar system", said Terry Wallace, head of Global Security at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Travelling at between 75,000 and 78,000 miles per hour, the probe has been flying through a hitherto unexplored region of the Saturnian system in an attempts to solve the mysteries of the mass of Saturn's rings and determine the length of Saturn's day. In nearly twenty years in space, the space mission Cassini has recorded many successes. Stunning pictures captured Saturn's weather, a once-in-30-years storm that engulfed the globe, and the changing of its seasons.

"Probably its greatest discovery has been that two moons, Titan and Enceladus, have liquid oceans, the environment and the organic chemistry that could potentially support life", Mr Nagle said.

Launched in 1997, the bus-size spacecraft was overseen by NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.

Launched in 1997, the 3.26 billion US dollar Cassini-Huygens mission has been touring the Saturn system since arriving there in 2004.

"We've completely rewritten the textbooks about Saturn".

Mission scientists and operators gave Cassini this fiery send-off on goal.

"For 13 years we have been running a marathon of scientific discovery, and we are on the last lap", she said early Friday.

The spacecraft Cassini is pictured above Saturn's northern hemisphere prior to making one of its Grand Finale dives in this NASA handout illustration obtained by Reuters on August 29.

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