In Photos: Cassini Mission Ends with Epic Dive into Saturn

One Last Look at Saturn

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Before NASA's Cassini spacecraft began the "grand finale" phase of its mission at Saturn, it took one last photo of the giant planet and its ring system from afar. [Full Story: RIP, Cassini: Historic Mission Ends with Fiery Plunge into Saturn]

Cassini's Grave: Infrared Image

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

This infrared-light image, made from data obtained by the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft, shows where the probe entered Saturn's atmosphere on Sept. 15, 2017. Cassini captured the image a day earlier, when it was about 394,000 miles (634,000 kilometers) from Saturn.

Cassini's Last Photo

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

This is the last image taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft before it dove into Saturn's atmosphere. It shows the location where the spacecraft would enter the planet's atmosphere hours later. Cassini took the photo on Sept. 14, 2017 at 12:59 p.m. PDT (3:59 p.m. EDT; 19:59 GMT).

Cassini’s Final Image in Visible Light

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

This monochrome photo — taken on Sept. 14, 2017, at a distance of about 394,000 miles (634,000 kilometers) from Saturn — is the last picture ever snapped by Cassini’s imaging cameras. It shows the spot where, a day later, the spacecraft plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere.

Enceladus Setting

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Enceladus sets behind Saturn in this view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Sept. 13, 2017.

JPL Braces for the Impact

Calla Cofield/

In the mission control center at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Cassini team members monitor the spacecraft's status with the Deep Space Network on Sept. 14, 2017, one day ahead of the mission's end.

Cassini Finale JPL

Calla Cofield/

Members of the Cassini team and other NASA employees watch the final minutes of the Cassini mission, next to a full-scale model of the spacecraft.

Animation of Cassini's Crash Course into Saturn


This animation shows Cassini’s final "grand finale" orbits, followed by a distant flyby of Titan that pushed the spacecraft into Saturn (final half orbit, in orange).


NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini shot this photo of Saturn on Sept. 13, 2017. [Cassini's Last-Ever Photos Come Down to Earth]

Approaching Saturn

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini took this photo of Saturn on Sept. 14, 2017 at 12:37 p.m. PDT (3:37 p.m. EDT; 1937 GMT), a little over 16 hours before it entered Saturn's atmosphere.

NASA's Deep Space Network Listens for the Signal

Joel Kowsky/NASA

A monitor shows the status of NASA's Deep Space Network as it receives data from the Cassini spacecraft, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017 in the Charles Elachi Mission Control Center in the Space Flight Operation Center at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at As an editor with over 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 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 enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.