Tampa — Global astronomers bid farewell Friday to US space agency Nasa’s famed Cassini spacecraft, which launched 20 years ago to circle Saturn and transformed the way we think about life elsewhere in the solar system. Cassini, an international project that cost $3.9bn and included scientists from 27 nations, has run out of rocket fuel as expected after a journey of about 7.9-billion kilometres. Its death plunge into the ringed gas giant — the furthest planet visible from Earth with the naked eye — is scheduled for shortly after the spacecraft’s final contact with Earth at 11.55am GMT. Cassini’s well-planned demise is a way of preventing any damage to Saturn’s ocean-bearing moons Titan and Enceladus, which scientists want to keep pristine for future exploration because they may contain some form of life. "It will be sad to see Cassini go on Friday, especially as the instrument we built is still working perfectly," said Stanley Cowley, professor of solar planetary physics at the Univ...

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as exclusive Financial Times articles, Morningstar financial data, and digital access to the Sunday Times and Times Select.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.



Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@businesslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.