• Astronomers bid farewell to $3.9B Saturn spacecraft


    TAMPA, Florida: Astronomers around the world bid farewell Friday to 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 $3.9 billion and included scientists from 27 nations, has run out of rocket fuel as expected after a journey of some 4.9 billion miles (7.9 billion kilometers). 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 7:55 a.m. (1155 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.



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