Cassini's mission to come to fiery end Friday in Saturn's atmosphere

A rendering of Cassini’s Grand Finale orbits.    
   Image NASA  JPL-Caltech

So, to Saturn, Cassini wouldn't just say goodbye, it will also take one last look at its two moons before it makes a depth dive into the planet atmosphere and explodes like a meteor, thereby making the end of its 13-year mission.

Cassini made several contributions to our understanding of Saturn and its moons. Its self-destruction will ensure Saturn's moons remain unharmed by the remnants of the spacecraft, as some of the moons are thought to be the most likely places in the solar system for life to have developed.

"Cassini has been in a long-term relationship with Titan, with a new rendezvous almost every month for more than a decade", Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize of NASA said in a statement.

This information and other scientific data will be downlinked in near future and memory "Cassini" will be cleared before he will start his last "dive" into the atmosphere of Saturn.

"The Cassini mission has taught us so very much, and to me personally I find great comfort from the fact that Cassini will continue teaching us right up to the very last seconds", said Curt Niebur, the Cassini programme scientist at Nasa Headquarters in Washington, DC.

During those hundreds of passes, Cassini's discovered liquid seas and lakes made of liquid methane.

With an worldwide plunge, Cassini is ending its 13-year tour of the Saturn system on the planet to ensure Saturn moons - in particular, Enceladus, with its subsurface ocean and signs of hydrothermal activity remain pristine for future exploration. This extended stay has permitted observations of the long-term variability of the planet, moons, rings and magnetosphere, observations not possible from short, flyby-style missions.

Cassini will collect vital data that was too risky to obtain earlier in the mission including detailed maps of Saturn's gravity and magnetic fields and extreme close-ups of Saturn's rings and clouds.

The station is one of NASA's three tracking stations around the world that provide vital two-way radio contact with spacecraft like Cassini.

The signal at Earth is expected to drop off around 11:55 GMT (12:55 BST; 07:55 EDT; 04:55 PDT). NASA called this gravity assist "a farewell kiss", because after the fate of the "Cassini" will change nothing.

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