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Cassini plunges to its death at Saturn, and humanity says goodbye

“We have loss of signal.”

And with that, the Cassini spacecraft’s 13 years of exploration at Saturn came to a fiery end.

In the mission control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Julie Webster, head of spacecraft operations, called Cassini’s time of death at 4:55 a.m. PDT. With loss of signal, she said, “that would be the end of the spacecraft.”

https://twitter.com/NASA/status/908661580354613249

The scientists and engineers in their matching purple polo shirts were quiet. Then there were a few tears.

“I hope you’re all deeply proud of this amazing accomplishment,” said Earl Maize, Cassini’s project manager. “Congratulations to you all. This has been an incredible mission, an incredible spacecraft.”

Full coverage of Cassini's Grand Finale »

That sentiment was shared well beyond JPL in La Cañada Flintridge.

https://twitter.com/DiMy/status/908670535277592576
https://twitter.com/SciAstro/status/908661029126660096
https://twitter.com/CHARL3TTE/status/908670047316594688
https://twitter.com/erherringbone/status/908664141224833024
https://twitter.com/GalileoMoon/status/908668682724708352
https://twitter.com/PlanetDr/status/908640169057595392
https://twitter.com/Joe_Reacher/status/908675334513549313
https://twitter.com/themalleyways/status/908670676151672832
https://twitter.com/arolacroix/status/908670988610674688

There was even a little poetry ...

https://twitter.com/brianwolven/status/908501623533645824

And some humor …

https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/908669420444291072
https://twitter.com/ujochi/status/908675226392780801

At least one person in Mission Control was able to look on the bright side:

https://twitter.com/DeborahNetburn/status/908647779420954624

Here’s another optimistic way to look at the mission’s end:

https://twitter.com/SittoraY/status/908667695528325120

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karen.kaplan@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter @LATkarenkaplan and "like" Los Angeles Times Science & Health on Facebook.

MORE ON THE CASSINI MISSION

‘OK. Let’s do it!’ An oral history of how NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn came to be

Check out Cassini’s jaw-dropping discoveries of Saturn’s moons

Epic storms, new moons and worlds that might host life: Here are Cassini's greatest discoveries

After 13 years at Saturn, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is ready for its grand finale



UPDATES:

6:15 a.m.: This article was updated with additional reaction.

This article was originally published at 5:30 a.m.

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