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Cassini's 'Grand Finale' at Saturn: NASA's Plan in Pictures

Proximal Drive

NASA/JPL-Caltech

After 13 years of orbiting Saturn, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will take a suicidal plunge into the planet on Sept. 15, 2017.

To celebrate the spacecraft's accomplishments and illustrate the mission's final moments, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory created a video animation of Cassini's final months. Here we celebrate some of Cassini's greatest moments in the past, present and future.

Launch

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Cassini-Huygens launched on Oct. 15, 1997 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Huygens was an atmospheric entry probe that Cassini dropped off at Saturn's largest moon, Titan, in 2005.

Orbit Insertion

NASA/JPL-Caltech

The spacecraft arrived at the Saturn system on June 30, 2004.

Huygens Landing

NASA/JPL-Caltech

The European Space Agency's Huygens spacecraft landed on Saturn's moon Titan on Jan. 14, 2005 after hitching a ride on the much larger Cassini spacecraft.

Iapetus & Saturn

NASA/JPL-Caltech

A view of Saturn from the surface of its third-largest moon Iapetus

Titan

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Cassini has also captured some amazing photos of Saturn's largest moon, Titan.

Enceladus Plume

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Saturn's icy moon Enceladus has also been thoroughly inspected by Cassini over the years. The spacecraft flew by Enceladus 22 times throughout its mission and passed through plumes of liquid water spewing from the moon's surface.

Backlit Saturn

NASA/JPL-Caltech

The sun peeks around Saturn's southern hemisphere in this view from Saturn's shadow. Cassini has returned some of the most incredible close-up views of Saturn to date. [Latest Saturn Photos From NASA's Cassini Orbiter]

Ring Dive

NASA/JPL-Caltech

This illustration shows NASA’s Cassini spacecraft about to make one of its dives between Saturn and its innermost rings as part of the mission's Grand Finale.

Ring Crossing

NASA/JPL-Caltech

In November 2016, Cassini kicked off its "grand finale" with the first of 20 ring dives.

Into the Ring Gap

NASA/JPL-Caltech

During Cassini's ring-grazing orbits, the spacecraft will get closer and closer to Saturn and its iconic ring system.

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Hanneke Weitering

Hanneke Weitering is an editor at Space.com with 10 years of experience in science journalism. She has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time Hanneke anjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.