Cassini’s 20-year-long journey across the Solar System came to a fiery end today as the probe burned in Saturn’s atmosphere

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The Cassini craft no longer exists, after taking a final dive into Saturn’s atmosphere.

Its instruments maintained contact with Earth until the last seconds of the probe’s remarkable journey across the Solar System, sending data back to Earth in almost real time.

The craft travelled nearly 5 million miles since its launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida back in 1997. During this time, Cassini beamed home over 250 million images, uncovering amazing facts about Saturn, its moons, and other celestial bodies in the Solar System.

The nuclear-propelled craft had almost exhausted its fuel, a point after which it would have become uncontrollable. To avoid a random collision with one of Saturn’s moons or Saturn itself (which could have led to contamination of the soil by Earth bacteria), engineers decided to put Cassini in a terminal dive through Saturn’s atmosphere, to ensure it burned completely.

Cassini’s grand finale took place earlier today. Ground control confirmed it lost contact with the probe at exactly 11.55am GMT.

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