• Michelle Hebert

NASA's Cassini spacecraft finishes its mission


NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has completed its 20-year mission. One part of Cassini’s mission was to go to Saturn, and that is where it ended. Cassini’s final day was Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, CNN reported.

A Cassini project scientist, Linda Spilker, said, “You can think of Cassini as the first Saturn probe,” according to CNN. The European Space Agency reported that Cassini was launched on Oct 15, 1997. “Cassini… orbited Saturn nearly 300 times and collected more than 453,000 pictures and 635 gigabytes of scientific data,” according to ABC News. Cassini gave scientists more information to help them better understand the Saturnian system.

Saturn was not the only place that Cassini traveled to: it traveled to and looped around the sun, Venus, and Earth before it made the long journey to Saturn. Cassini traveled around the sun, Venus, and Earth before going to Venus so the spacecraft could get gravity assist boosts to make it to the outer Solar System.

NASA placed plutonium, a radioactive chemical and element number 94 on the periodic table, on Cassini, and they planned for it to be the last to go. The plutonium was put in iridium, chemical element 77, to protect all the plutonium because it runs all of the instruments on board, the Associated Press reported. Besides running all the instruments on board, the plutonium helped to stop Cassini from colliding with any of Saturn’s moons.

Julie Webster, spacecraft operations chief, said, "It was a perfect spacecraft right to the end; it did everything we asked it to,” according to CNN.