Fiery end for Nasa mis­sion to Saturn as space­craft in­cin­er­ates

Scottish Daily Mail - - TERROR ON THE TUBE - By Vic­to­ria Allen Science Cor­re­spon­dent

‘Truly a blaze of glory’

THE Cassini mis­sion to Saturn has ended in a blaze of glory.

Af­ter 13 years in or­bit, the space­craft yes­ter­day plum­meted into the planet’s at­mos­phere at 77,000mph and burnt up in less than a minute.

Sci­en­tists at Nasa’s Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory in Pasadena, Cal­i­for­nia, hugged each other as one of the agency’s most suc­cess­ful mis­sions ended.

Cassini, roughly the size of a de­liv­ery van, trans­formed knowl­edge of con­di­tions on Saturn and dis­cov­ered seven of its moons, send­ing back huge amounts of data to Earth. One of its big­gest dis­cov­er­ies came ear­lier this year when it re­vealed strong ev­i­dence for the pos­si­bil­ity of alien life.

It found hy­dro­gen on Saturn’s icy moon Ence­ladus, which, along with an ocean un­der its sur­face, may pro­vide the main build­ing blocks for life.

The un­manned craft had to be de­stroyed be­cause it had run out of fuel and risked crash­ing into Ence­ladus or one of Saturn’s other moons, Ti­tan, po­ten­tially con­tam­i­nat­ing their sur­faces with bugs from Earth.

Ra­dio con­tact was lost at 12.55pm yes­ter­day as Cassini was torn apart over Saturn’s cloud tops.

Earl Maize of the Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory said: ‘What a way to go – truly a blaze of glory.’

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