NASA Cassini spacecraft ends 20-year journey

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Meteorologist Kirstie Zontini looks at what NASA's Cassini studied and why its mission is ending.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The only spacecraft to ever orbit Saturn burned up in the skies over Saturn Friday morning.

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As of 7 a.m., NASA's spacecraft at Saturn should be disintegrated in the sky, but the confirmation will take 83 minutes to reach Earth, a billion miles away.

NASA’s Cassini departed Earth in 1997 and arrived in Saturn in 2004. The spacecraft, with a remarkable 20 year journey, showed us the planet, its rings and moons up close in all their glory.

It burned up, ending the nearly 20-year mission, around 8:20 a.m.

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Cassini was set on a course to plunge through Saturn's atmosphere and vaporize like a meteor Friday morning.

Flight controllers at California's Jet Propulsion Laboratory expect one last burst of scientific data from Cassini, before the radio waves go flat — and the spacecraft falls silent.

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Team members have already said their goodbyes, but will raise glasses in a final salute.