A Final Tip of the Hat to the Cassini Space Probe

And this is it.  On Friday 15 September, after 20 years in space, 13 of which spent in Saturn’s system, Cassini plunged into the gas giant’s atmosphere.  NASA made this choice to prevented it crashing into and contaminating the moons Titan or Enceladus, which could host alien microbial life.  The end was quick: as described in details in this National Geographic’s article, “the spacecraft’s thrusters failed, overwhelmed by gravity and intense atmospheric friction.  It began to tumble, lost sight of Earth, and went silent forever around 4:55 a.m. PT.  Though scientists couldn’t observe the action, they knew that one or maybe two minutes after Cassini’s signal vanished, Saturn tore the spacecraft apart.  The probe shed flaming pieces into the planet’s atmosphere, streaking through the alien sky like a crumbling meteor.”

This is the start of this morning’s entry on Steph P. Bianchini’s THE EARTHIAN HIVEMIND, “So Long, Earthians.  Cassini, Over and Out.”  We may recall THE EARTHIAN HIVEMIND from about a week and a half ago, referring us to a piece on Cassini on NATURE.COM (see September 7).  So returning the favor in a way, for Bianchini’s own final take (though with several more links there that can be pursued too) those interested are invited to press here.

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