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'Vaporize!' Cassini Gets Operatic Saturn Send-Off from 'Star Trek: Voyager' Actor

Instead of "energize," a famous "Star Trek: Voyager" cast member has a new command for the almost-finished Cassini mission at Saturn: "Vaporize!"

Robert Picardo, best known for playing an "Emergency Medical Hologram" (doctor) on the TV series "Star Trek: Voyager," belts out a classic opera tune in tribute to Cassini, which will plunge into Saturn's atmosphere on Friday (Sept. 15).

Cassini has been studying Saturn and its moons since 2004; some of its many discoveries include finding at least 101 water geysers spouting from the moon Enceladus and discovering evidence of prebiotic chemistry on the moon Titan. 

A farewell to @CassiniSaturn, in the style @RobertPicardo sings best: opera! #GrandFinale

The spacecraft, which is low on fuel, will make a deliberate plunge into Saturn to avoid the small possibility of it crashing into a potentially habitable moon, such as Enceladus. It will take measurements and transmit them as it flies down through the atmosphere, until the pressure of the atmosphere crushes the spacecraft.

To celebrate Cassini's contribution to science, space advocacy group The Planetary Society put together a YouTube video that in part features Picardo, who is on the board of directors for the organization. "Goodbye, Cassini – your mission's fini," sings Robert Picardo, to the tune of of the song "La donna è mobile" (Woman is Fickle) from the opera "Rigoletto," by the 19th-century Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi.

"Bravo, Cassini! Have some linguine. You showed us Saturn's rings and lots of pretty things," continues Picardo, as the video shows pictures of Saturn's rings and the geysers of Enceladus in the background.

The video also shows a quick view of the Huygens lander, which Cassini carried most of the way to Saturn's system. Huygens touched down on the surface of Titan in 2005. Huygens was designed to only last a short time on the surface, but it did yield information about Titan's clouds and atmospheric temperature. "Landed on Titan, it was exciting," Picardo sings.

"Your mission never failed to surprise, dazzled our eyes," Picardo continues, as the video turns its attention again to Cassini. "Now dive to Saturn — vaporize!" 

Follow for complete coverage of Cassini's final days.

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is pursuing a Ph.D. part-time in aerospace sciences (University of North Dakota) after completing an M.Sc. (space studies) at the same institution. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @HowellSpace.