Via an international collaboration, Cassini brought Europe's Huygens lander to the Saturn system and dropped it down on Titan, giving Earthlings a stunning view of the moon's liquid oceans and complex organic atmosphere.
For Linda Spilker, a Cassini project scientist at JPL, the probe's investigation of the tiny moon Enceladus was the most exciting part of the mission.
"And then to take instruments built for other purposes and turn them toward sampling and flying through the plumes and actually measuring the constituents — finding a salty global ocean containing organics, the possibility of hydrothermal vents and just revealing a world that we thought was completely frozen solid when we first got to Saturn."
To protect those Enceladus and Titan from contamination with Earth life, Cassini is going to dive down into Saturn's atmosphere before the probe runs out of fuel, which could have left it drifting on a collision course with the planet's moons.
Saturn's "Grand Finale" dive is primarily aimed to protect Enceladus, which has a higher planetary-protection standard — Titan is just a bonus, the scientists said.
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