Cassini, we hardly knew ya, and now you’re gone from us. The Cassini spacecraft was first launched on Oct. 15, 1997, and finally arrived at Saturn on June 30, 2004. It has since sent valuable information about the planet back down to Earth, particularly about Saturn’s rings and its two moons, Titan and Enceladus. Cassini’s 20-year mission ended when it was put on a course to fly itself into Saturn’s atmosphere and self-destruct, preserving the sanctity of the planet and its moons. Cassini’s “Grand Finale” goodbye party made the internet feel all types of ways and gave us all a lesson in the spacecraft’s unforgettable value.
For those at NASA, the farewell to Cassini was bittersweet, and many at the agency shared their thoughts on just how important Cassini was. “This is the final chapter of an amazing mission, but it’s also a new beginning,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a press release. “Cassini’s discovery of ocean worlds at Titan and Enceladus changed everything, shaking our views to the core about surprising places to search for potential life beyond Earth.”
One NASA scientist took comfort in knowing that Cassini will still be part of our galaxy – in a way. “Things never will be quite the same for those of us on the Cassini team now that the spacecraft is no longer flying,” Linda Spilker, a Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a press release. “But, we take comfort knowing that every time we look up at Saturn in the night sky, part of Cassini will be there, too.”
Check out images and tweets ahead about Cassini’s end – and if you find yourself feeling emotional, remember, you’re not alone.