Launched in 1997, the 3.26 billion US dollar Cassini-Huygens mission has been touring the Saturn system since arriving there in 2004.
The Cassini craft disintegrated in the skies above Saturn early Friday.
Cassini revealed wet, exotic worlds that might harbor life: the moons Enceladus and Titan.
Still, it was an emotional time for everyone involved, as many have been working with this spacecraft for decades.
Carolyn Porco's favorite image of Saturn and its moon Enceladus was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on March 16, 2006, at a distance of approximately 1.3 million miles from Saturn. Perhaps Cassini's biggest revelation was the fact that Enceladus has a global ocean underneath its crust, one that could be habitable. For example, the orbiter spotted lakes of liquid hydrocarbons (mostly methane) on Titan's surface, and its observations suggest that the huge moon also hosts an ocean of salty water beneath its crust.
What's next: Jim Green, the director of planetary science at NASA, is one of several scientists who want to return to Saturn, the LA Times reported. The Grand Finale of Cassini was watched and admired by those on earth as a triumphant end to a 20-year journey filled with discovery.
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Since April, Cassini has been engaged in last phase of its mission, known as the "Grand Finale".
But Cassini still made the most of its final descent.
Those final seconds of data represent the first ever direct sampling of Saturn's atmosphere, giving scientists unprecedented information about the makeup of the planet.
Now, its final encounter with the ringed beauty, will be its demise. As with Voyager, the Mars rover Spirit and other prolific spacecraft, the team became more than attached to Cassini. It's sad to see the spacecraft end. Project officials invited ground telescopes to look for Cassini's last-gasp flash, but weren't hopeful it would be spotted from a billion miles away.
Cassini's atmospheric dive started around 6:31AM ET, but researchers didn't receive word of the vehicle's destruction until about 83 minutes later. During the predawn hours, the spacecraft dipped into the Saturn clouds and was ripped apart. NASA confirmed scientists lost contact with the probe at 7:55 a.m. EDT Friday.
Cassini is dead; long live Cassini.