They called the move “a goodbye kiss”. That would be Cassini, brave and lonely space traveller, snapping one last picture of Saturn’s moon, Titan, before performing a death dive into the planet.
Cassini had been staring at its beloved Saturn since 2004 when it arrived at its destination after a seven year journey through cold, black space. And there she was in all her beauty and glory and grace.
We saw her as we had never seen her before – Saturn – because Cassini loved her. Was devoted to her. Wanted to tell us about her.
Cassini deliberately crashed into the planet that was its reason for being because it was running out of fuel and had to crash somewhere. If it were to crash into one of Saturn’s 62 moons, it could affect Life, as some of Saturn’s moons may, in fact, be habitable.
“I want to find life elsewhere on a place like Enceladus, but I don’t want to realize later on that we put it there,” explained one scientist.
So Cassini travelled alone for 20 years, studied beautiful Saturn and her rings and moons, faithfully reported to its creators from 900 million miles away for as long as it possibly could, and then obediently plunged to its certain death on the planet it had embraced and come to know.
And we on Earth wept. Because a piece of us died up there on Saturn.
Rest in peace Cassini.
Featured image is an artist’s rendition of Cassini passing Titan, Saturn’s moon, by NASA.