It’s not every day that a spacecraft gets vaporized by the very planet it sought to explore.
After 13 years studying Saturn and its moons, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will plunge into the ringed gas giant’s atmosphere. The mission will come to a close at about 7:55 a.m. EDT (4:55 a.m. PDT) Friday, when Saturn’s atmosphere pushes Cassini’s antenna away from Earth, terminating the signal. Shortly thereafter, the spacecraft will disintegrate.
If you want to keep tabs on the action, you’ve got a few options. Science News astronomy writer Lisa Grossman is at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. — home of mission control for the Cassini probe. She’ll be popping on to the Science News Facebook page throughout the day Thursday with live updates, and she (@astrolisa) and Science News (@ScienceNews) will have details for you on Twitter as well.
Cassini’s death won’t be captured on film. But thanks to the internet, you can watch NASA scientists react to the probe’s impending doom live. In the early hours of Friday morning (7-8:30 a.m. EDT/4-5:30 a.m. PDT), NASA plans to stream a live video feed from the control room, which you can watch here:
For more on Cassini’s exploits, check out all of our past coverage of the mission.