Launched in 1997, the Cassini spacecraft has been orbiting the planet Saturn and its moons since 2004. Unfortunately, 20th century space probes don’t last forever, and the crew at NASA in charge of this mission were faced with two problems:

1) At some point the spacecraft would run out of fuel

2) If Cassini crashed onto Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, it could contaminate the moon’s water-ice and hamper future missions to study it.

To address both these problems, NASA decided to purposely crash the probe into the surface of Saturn, where it would burn up on impact with its antenna sending signals back to earth until the very end.

As I’ve done before, I joined an #AskNASA Twitter discussion to get some answers from the people at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. While this time I didn’t manage to get a shout out at the news conference as I have in the past, NASA JPL did respond to two of my tweets:

 

 

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