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How NASA's Cassini spacecraft will dive-bomb Saturn and die - CNET


Now Playing: Watch this: Cassini creeps closer to crashing into Saturn


It's been a good 19 years, but now Cassini must die.

This week, the NASA spacecraft will hurl itself into the atmosphere of the planet it's spent over a decade circling in search of solar system secrets hidden from human view until the orbiter arrived on the scene.

Cassini will enter Saturn's atmosphere on Friday for the first time, firing its thrusters until it gets tumbled around by the increasing density of the gas giant's outer layers. At that point the spacecraft, which is roughly the size and weight of a school bus, will likely lose its communications link with NASA and begin burning up.

The decision to destroy the probe has to do with protecting Saturn's fascinating moons from contamination. Thanks to the epic Cassini mission, we now know that some of those worlds hide liquid water and may have the potential to support life. We wouldn't want to mess with the first aliens we may find by...(continued)

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