Thanks to Cassini, NASA now knows that some of Saturn's planetary worlds hide liquid water and may have the potential to support life. When is Cassini expected to make it final transmission to earth? There are some huge gaps in the rings where the atmosphere is silent and less dusty.
On Friday, at 8.31pm, the spacecraft will enter Saturn's atmosphere, where turbulence will tear it apart.
By 3:30 a.m., Cassini will be gone. "It will radiate across the solar system for almost an hour and a half after Cassini itself has gone", Cassini project manager at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Earl Maize said.
The team made a decision to destroy Cassini out of fear it could crash into Enceladus or Titan, two of the most likely candidates for life elsewhere in our solar system. Fearful that the spacecraft might crash-land and contaminate one of the pristine moons, mission controllers set Cassini on a collision course with the planet itself.
Mission scientists and operators are giving Cassini this fiery send-off on goal.
According to NASA, this final flyby of Titan was also Cassini's closest one as the spacecraft lowered to just 73,974 miles above the moon's surface. At least two of Saturn's 62 known moons, Enceladus and Titan, potentially could harbor simple life forms.
"We are still making discoveries about the Saturn system studying the Cassini data, and we expect to be making them for some time", said Professor Larry Esposito of CU Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP).
Scientists have never been able to distinguish Saturn's mass from its rings', but because Cassini's suicide mission has taken it between the planet and the rings, its instruments should provide the numbers scientists have been itching to calculate for decades. However, eight of Cassini's 12 science experiments will continue to run until the last second, gathering never before seen data about Saturn's atmosphere. During its final dive, the spacecraft will collect detailed maps of Saturn's magnetic fields and gravity which will reveal some interesting facts about the internal arrangements of Saturn which could solve the mystery of the fast rotation of the ring planet.
But they haven't. "As much as I want to have a rational reaction", says Jonathan Lunine, a planetary scientist at Cornell University, "it's still really hard to say 'This is it for Cassini, ' that we won't be getting any more data from it after Friday, ever". Maize said that moment is his pick for the most awesome part of the Cassini mission.
In the end, Cassini will have witnessed half of a Saturn year. It was the first mission to orbit Saturn and explore its environs in detail. When Cassini arrived, the northern hemisphere of Saturn was emerging from winter.
The craft was launched 20 years ago, and is now running out of fuel.
NASA recreated a Cassini image of a backlit Saturn using a collage of about 1,600 photos of people waving at the ringed planet as part of social media campaign in 2013. Cassini will complete its "Grand Finale", where it travelled through a series of 22 dives between the rings of Saturn in the last few months and also it has successfully dived down to 600km above the Saturn's clouds.