Cassini's Grand Finale: a Good Spacecraft Goes to Heaven
Mar 02, 2018
Literacy Day/Dr. Bonnie Buratti
Cassini's Grand Finale: a Good Spacecraft Goes to Heaven

The Cassini Mission has explored Saturn and its system of moons and rings for the past 12 years, spanning two seasons of the planet. The great discoveries of the mission include hydrocarbon lakes and rain on Titan; a huge plume spewing water from a liquid subsurface ocean on Enceladus;  a glorious halo of complex, ever changing rings; closeup views of Saturn's unique and curious family of small moons; and several new moons. But the life of Cassini ended on September 15, when this gallant robot glided into and was consumed by the very planet it studied so closely. The daring passes between the rings and the planet at the very end of its life sent back to Earth spectacular views of the planet and rings as it executed its death spiral.


Dr. Bonnie Buratti is a Principal Scientist and technical manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, with expertise on the structure and evolution of icy moons and other small bodies. She holds degrees from MIT and Cornell in Astronomy. She is currently serving on the Science Teams for both the Cassini and New Horizons missions, and she is also the NASA Project Scientist for the Rosetta Mission to a comet. The author or coauthor of over 200 scientific papers, Dr. Buratti was awarded the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal, and the International Astronomical Union recognized her work by naming asteroid 90502 Buratti after her. She is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union. Her popular book “Worlds Fantastic, Worlds Familiar: A guided tour of the Solar System” was published this year.