Cassini's 'Grand Finale' at Saturn Lands NASA an Emmy

People pose as they receive an award in long formal sparkly dresses and suits
Representatives from NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab media relations and public engagement offices and leaders of the Cassini mission to Saturn accept an Emmy for outstanding original interactive program at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards on Sept. 8, 2018. L to R: Preston Dyches, Julie Webster, Phil Davis, Earl Maize, Jess Doherty, Alice Wessen, Jia-Rui Cook, Linda Spilker, Veronica McGregor (holding the Emmy), Stephanie L. Smith (Image credit: Courtesy of the Television Academy)

If you watched the Cassini probe's spectacular dive into Saturn last September, you weren't alone — in fact, space fans worldwide followed its social media campaign, illustrations and animations of the big event, and the "Grand Finale" dive and commentary itself was watched 2 million times, according to NASA. (More than 3 million space buffs visited the website during key Grand Finale events.)

To honor NASA's extraordinary coverage, the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory took home an Emmy for outstanding original interactive program during the Creative Arts Emmy Awards, presented Sept. 8 in Los Angeles.

"How many projects get to de-orbit their featured performer at the end of shooting?" producer Stephanie L. Smith said, according to Variety. The Grand Finale capped off Cassini's 20 years in space, and 13 years exploring the Saturn system, with a series of dives between the planet and its rings before burning up in the planet's atmosphere, taking measurements all the while.

The Cassini campaign was up against an animated virtual-reality short from Google called "Back to the Moon" and interactive virtual experiences for the movies "Blade Runner 2049," "Coco" and "Spider-Man Homecoming," all released in 2017.

Cassini's observations of Saturn have revolutionized our understanding of the planet, its rings and its more than 60 moons — and this award acknowledges the 360-degree videos and livestreams, interactive press kit, articles, educational materials, real-time tracking software and more that conveyed the drama and wonder of the mission and space exploration in general.

Part of a commemorative poster made about the Cassini mission, whose press campaign has won an Emmy award. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Editor's Note: This article was corrected to reflect that the award was presented Sept. 8. It will air as part of the Creative Arts Emmys Sept. 15 (the anniversary of Cassini's grand finale dive!).

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Sarah Lewin
Associate Editor

Sarah Lewin started writing for in June of 2015 as a Staff Writer and became Associate Editor in 2019 . Her work has been featured by Scientific American, IEEE Spectrum, Quanta Magazine, Wired, The Scientist, Science Friday and WGBH's Inside NOVA. Sarah has an MA from NYU's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program and an AB in mathematics from Brown University. When not writing, reading or thinking about space, Sarah enjoys musical theatre and mathematical papercraft. She is currently Assistant News Editor at Scientific American. You can follow her on Twitter @SarahExplains.