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


NASA employees, friends and family attend a watch party at Caltech for Cassini’s final signal back to Earth.

“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.”

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.

There was even a little poetry ...


And some humor …

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

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

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

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