NASA’s Cassini spacecraft plunged into the atmosphere of Saturn in 2017, concluding a hugely successful mission to explore the planet, its rings and icy moons. The spacecraft’s close-up images of Saturn’s ring system likely will remain unmatched for decades to come.
Ground controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirmed Thursday the Cassini spacecraft survived its first trip between Saturn and its rings, the closest any probe has ever come to the planet.
This view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft showcases some of the amazingly detailed structure of Saturn’s rings. This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about four degrees above the ring plane.
Two tiny moons of Saturn, almost lost amid the planet’s enormous rings, are seen orbiting in this Cassini probe image. Pan, visible within the Encke Gap near lower-right, is in the process of overtaking the slower Atlas, visible at upper-left.