September 15, 2017 4:30 am
Updated: September 15, 2017 7:22 pm

NASA’s Cassini ends mission by crashing into Saturn. Here’s what the spacecraft taught us

WATCH ABOVE: Saturn probe sends final transmission to NASA

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft completed its mission to Saturn Friday morning — by crashing and burning straight into the planet.

READ MORE: IN PICTURES: A look back at NASA’s Cassini before its fiery end

The spacecraft, which offered most in-depth look at Saturn yet during a 13-year mission, met its fiery end at 7:55 a.m. ET, colliding into the massive planet at roughly 113,000 km/hour.

“Cassini is now part of the planet it studied. Thanks for the science,” NASA tweeted Friday morning, along with a video of its scientists applauding the end of its mission.

Another Twitter account run by NASA called CassiniSaturn, shared its own tribute to the spacecraft.

“Cassini showed us the beauty of Saturn. It revealed the best in us. Now it’s up to us to keep exploring.”

The account went on to tweet that the end of the mission was a “bittersweet farewell” and that it changed the organization’s view of the solar system. It recognized the four scientists that led the mission — Earl Maize, Linda Spiker, Julie Webster, and Thomas Zurbuchen.

WATCH: It was a bittersweet end to an epic mission. As Eric Sorensen reports, Cassini left us with breathtaking images and insights.

 

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On its website, NASA highlighted exactly why the Cassini’s mission matters. Some notable ones included:

Saturn’s moon discovered to be Earth-like

The spacecraft, which was launched in 1997 and became the first ever to orbit Saturn, studied Saturn’s “rings, moons and magnetosphere.” It showed scientists that Saturn’s moon, Titan, is the most Earth-like world discovered yet — with similar weather, climate and geology.

READ MORE: Cassini spacecraft to have close encounter with Saturn’s water-vapour spewing moon

“Titan provides perhaps the best stage in the solar system to watch the organic chemistry that led to the origin of life on Earth billions of years ago,” the website reads.

“Titan can also be considered a possible analog for the future Earth.”

The moon also has similar landscapes to Earth.

WATCH: Previous coverage of NASA’s Cassini spacecraft 

Beauty of Saturn

While humans have marveled at Saturn’s rings for years, Cassini provided the closest look at what NASA says is “arguably the most photogenic planet in our solar system.”

“Cassini has shown us icy ringscapes that are at once magnificent in their sheer physical extent and exquisitely delicate in their expression of the subtle harmonies of gravity.”

WATCH: NASA releases retrospective video as Cassini mission over Saturn comes to an end

Human innovation

The entire mission was a “staggering achievement,” NASA said, adding that it involved the collaboration of three space agencies and 19 countries.

It explained that the mission built on the many lessons scientists learned from the Galileo mission to Jupiter.

READ MORE: Global liquid ocean confirmed on Saturn moon

Saturn’s rings

Scientists have learned that there are several ways rings can form around planets, thanks to the Cassini mission.

But they say they’re still trying to learn exactly how Saturn got its rings.

WATCH: NASA’s Cassini captures the sounds of Saturn’s rings

What’s next for the Cassini team at NASA?

NASA explained in a blog post Friday, that the group involved with Cassini will now go on to working on other missions. Scientists will continue using the wealth of information the spacecraft provided, and analyze data gathered during the mission’s grand finale.

The organization is also planning other missions. It says Jupiter’s moon Europa is a “prime target for future exploration.”

— With files from Global News reporter Rebecca Joseph

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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