Cheers, tears as scientists mark end of ‘a perfect spacecraft’
WASHINGTON: Cassini was an unmanned mission, but Julie Webster actually sat inside the spacecraft before its launch in October 1997.
After Nasa received Cassini’s last transmission on Friday as the space probe flew to its demise in Saturn’s atmosphere, Webster, stood up in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s mission control arena in Pasadena, California, applauded and embraced colleague Earl Maize, who had similarly worked most of his career on Cassini.
“I almost have no words,” Webster, spacecraft operations team manager for the 20-year mission, told reporters later in a press conference. “I’ve been on this mission since it was built.”
The Cassini-Huygens mission, a cooperative project of Nasa, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency, was launched in October 1997 and reached Saturn’s orbit in 2004.
The Cassini orbiter launched in October 1997 carrying the Huygens probe.
The spacecraft came into Saturn’s gravitational influence in 2004, and in 2005 jettisoned the Huygens craft to explore planet’s moons, characteristics.
Webster spoke at length about the engineers and scientists in the 1990s who designed and built CassiniHuygens — reconciling what was scientifically imaginable with the technically achievable.
She choked back emotions before saying that the team “built a perfect spacecraft.”
“This has truly been beyond my wildest dreams,” Webster said. Titan, one of the exposing Earth-like
Sandra Martin (L), Carol WebsterClaphan (C) and Mary Knoll, friends and family of Cassini team members, celebrate the Cassini mission at the end of mission final press conference, at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.