As if we already weren't sad enough about Cassini's imminent demise, NASA has now created a video so that we can watch what the spacecraft's final moments will look like when it smashes into Saturn's atmosphere on September 15.
Image: NASA/George Dvorsky
Over the last 13 years, NASA's Cassini orbiter has conducted some of the most important science around Saturn and its moons. The images and information it's beamed back to Earth has enabled the publication of over 3000 scientific reports, according to NASA. But after spending nearly 20 years in space, Cassini is running out of fuel. Instead of risking an unintended crash into one of Saturn's 62 moons, NASA has decided to end Cassini's mission by plunging it into the planet's atmosphere. It will go out triumphantly, like the Iron Giant at the end of that godforsaken, gut-wrenching movie that I adore with every fibre of my being.
The three minute, 40 second long video reviews some of Cassini's greatest accomplishments, like finding methane lakes on Titan and icy plumes on Enceladus. It all ends with the last performance of Cassini's six-month-long grand finale mission, in which the orbiter burns up in Saturn's orbit and becomes a part of the very thing it has studied for over a decade. CUE THE TEARS AND SAD MUSIC.
To be fair, this is classic Cassini: Even as it's dying, the brave li'l orbiter will have its antenna pointed at Earth, broadcasting its life up until the very end.
On April 26, Cassini will begin its "grand finale" — a series of 22 dives between Saturn and its rings, culminating on September 15. While we'll all be sad to see it go, at least it will go out in a blaze of glory. Godspeed, little Cassini.