U.S. space agency NASA received the final signal from its Cassini spacecraft on Friday, ending a groundbreaking 13-year Saturn mission with a meteor-like plunge into the planet's atmosphere. Nathan Frandino reports.
NATS: "We call loss of signal at 115546 for the s-band, so that would be the end of the spacecraft." And just like that, NASA's Cassini spacecraft was gone... losing contact as it plunged into Saturn's atmosphere, and ending a mission that lasted 13 years. For Cassini program manager Earl Maize amd his team, it was an emotional end to an extraordinary journey. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EARL MAIZE, CASSINI PROGRAM MANAGER, SAYING: "I hope you're all as deeply proud of this amazing accomplishment." Cassini launched in 1997. It took seven years to reach the ringed-planet, and once it arrived, the spacecraft got straight to work - over thirteen years, discovering seasonal changes on Saturn, ice plumes spouting from the moon Enceladus, and identifying a resemblance to a primordial Earth on the moon Titan. The end of Cassini's odyssey was met with applause, hugs and tears back on Earth. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EARL MAIZE, CASSINI PROGRAM MANAGER, SAYING: "I'm going to call this the end of mission. Project manager off the net." (applause) Cassini's final transmissions are expected to included unprecedented data from Saturn's upper atmosphere... one last set of discoveries from a groundbreaking mission.