The Cassini spacecraft will take a plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere on Friday after spending 20 years flying through the solar system and commit one final act: self-destruction.
The NASA spacecraft left Cape Canaveral in Florida in 1997 and has traveled about 4.9 billion miles (7.8 billion km) since then, according to NASA. Since Cassini arrived at Saturn, it has circled the ringed planet nearly 300 times, taking photographs for scientists back on Earth to learn from.
In its finale, the probe will burn up once it plunges into Saturn’s atmosphere. This ensures that microbes from Earth cannot infect Saturn’s potentially inhabitable moon, Enceladus.
It will take 83 minutes after the probe’s destruction for the signals to stop arriving on Earth, at about 7:55 a.m. ET.
Here are eight images Cassini took along its journey:
- Meet TIME’s Newest Class of Next Generation Leaders
- After Visiting Both Ends of the Earth, I Realized How Much Trouble We’re In
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- Oil Companies Posted Huge Profits. Here’s Where The Cash Will Go (Hint: Not Climate)
- Column: We Asked Hundreds of Americans About Abortion. Their Feelings Were Complicated
- A Short History of the Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of the Marcos Family
- Long-Lasting Birth Control Is Already Hard to Get. Advocates Worry It May Only Get Worse
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