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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

NASA reconstructs Cassini's last moments

• by David Szondy

Now, thanks to telemetry sent by the spacecraft during its final plunge, NASA engineers have been able to reconstruct the final dramatic seconds before contact with the explorer was lost forever and answer a minor mystery about Cassini's "comeback."

The end of Cassini was a carefully orchestrated grand finale to a 20-year mission that sent back more data about Saturn and its moons during its 13-year visit than earthbound scientists had collected in four centuries. As the spacecraft ran low on propellant, NASA decided to avoid the remote chance of terrestrial microbes contaminating one of the Saturnian moons by deliberately sending Cassini into Saturn's atmosphere, where it would burn up within minutes.

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