On Friday NASA intentionally crashed its pioneering spacecraft Cassini into Saturn’s atmosphere, bringing to a close a 20-year mission of exploration of this unique planet.
The Cassini-Huygens mission, launched on Oct. 15, 1997, was a joint endeavor of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency and was the first mission to orbit Saturn and explore its environs in detail.
As a result, the findings of the Cassini mission have revolutionized our understanding of Saturn, its complex rings, the amazing assortment of moons and the planet’s dynamic magnetic environment.
The following is a photographic tribute of some of the most stunning images taken throughout Cassini’s historic scientific mission.
— Images and captions courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.