Last adventure ahead for NASA's Cassini spacecraft at Saturn

NASA photo archive: Stunning searchable database includes moon landing, Milky Way and space walks

The spacecraft will enter orbit for these dives today.

We'll soon miss the steady stream of artistic images of Saturn, its rings and moons by the Cassini team.

"It really represents a capstone finding for the mission", said Cassini's project scientist, Linda Spilker, noting that the spacecraft has been circling Saturn for more than a decade.

If the models are wrong and Cassini is clobbered by BB-size material, it still will end up exactly where NASA is aiming for on September 15 - at Saturn.

Cassini snapped the image on April 12. Its unique perspective on our solar system will be missed. It was a generation steeped in "Star Trek", "2001: A Space Odyssey" and optimism.

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NASA will destroy its 20-year-old Cassini spacecraft.

Cassini will make its final close flyby of Saturn's moon Titan on April 22, 2017.

Seen from Saturn, Earth and the other inner solar system planets always appear close to the sun much like Venus and Mercury do from Earth.

Cassini's days are numbered, but the probe is making the most if its waning mission. Scientists have long known about the plumes of water vapor spewing from cracks at the moon's south pole, thanks to Cassini. It's been described as a frozen version of pre-life Earth (i.e. before microbes started pumping oxygen into our atmosphere around 3.5 billion years ago).

Indeed, the world has been along for the entirety of Cassini's wild ride.

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The sea itself is about 50% larger than Earth's Lake Superior and is made of a liquid mix of methane, nitrogen, and ethane.

During its flyby, which would be Cassini's 127th targeted encounter with Titan, the spacecraft will also look for changes in Titan's methane lakes and seas and study the depth and composition of its smaller lakes. It doesn't want to shower contaminating wreckage onto these worlds that might harbor life. "Cassini sets a high bar for missions yet to come".

It's something many astronauts recount once they return from space. Cassini may be able to see ring pieces as small as a kilometer across.

Nothing Cassini has done or found so far has moved the markets back on Earth. How little of nature's repertoire we have even guessed at. "But I'm also quite optimistic that we're going to discover some new and really exciting science as we probe the region we've never probed before".

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He is the most exciting, awesome player in the game today. "He's trying to get back as quick as he can", coach Quin Snyder said. It also helps that Rajon Rondo is playing like vintage Rondo, the point guard who masterminded the Celtics' title run in 2008.

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