Cassini’s voyage of discovery ends Friday
September 15, 2017 -- A 13-year joint NASA, ESA and Italian Space Agency mission to the ringed planet Saturn will end on September 15 with Cassini vaporizing in Saturn’s outer atmosphere.
On Friday, Cassini will make its final plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere, collecting and streaming back unique data about the planet.
Though the robot’s electrical systems and instruments could have continued to be powered by the plutonium radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), without fuel for manoeuvering, there is a small chance that Cassini could have crashed into Titan or Enceladus.
Both moons may satisfy the conditions needed for “life as we know it,” and Cassini never went through the rigorous clean-room procedures required to make such a landing without the possibility of introducing Earth-based life.