Farewell, Cassini: Saturn Spacecraft’s Crash Is Top Spaceflight Story of 2017

By Nola Taylor Redd

After 13 years in the Saturn system, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft had become an icon.

The probe’s data and imagery reshaped scientists’ understanding of the ringed planet and its 60-plus moons, and brought Saturn’s beauty and mystery to the masses all over the world.

All of that storied work came to an end on Sept. 15, 2017, when Cassini’s handlers sent the craft hurtling into Saturn in an intentional death dive. This plunge wrung the most possible science from the mission while keeping any potentially habitable environments safe from contamination, NASA officials said.

“Not only did we do science here at the very end, but we protected the science to be done in the future,” Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C., said the day after Cassini’s plunge.

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