NASA's Cassini spacecraft finishes last close orbit of Saturn's moon Titan


With Saturn's impressive rings in the foreground, there's a tiny speck in the background that is in fact, Earth!

The awesome image, captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on April 12, shows Earth as a small speck of light in between the icy rings of Saturn.

By destroying the spacecraft, NASA will ensure that any hitchhiking Earth microbes still alive on Cassini will not contaminate the moons for future study.

Cassini transmitted its images and other data to Earth following the encounter. Cassini zoomed past Venus and explored Jupiter before entering into orbit around the gas giant Saturn, the first spacecraft to do so.

According to, the Cassini spacecraft made its final close approach to Titan on April 22 at 2:08 a.m., at an altitude of about 608 miles above its surface. They will be looking into the images of Titan's hydrocarbon seas and lakes that spread across the moon's polar region.

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"Cassini's up-close exploration of Titan is now behind us, but the rich volume of data the spacecraft has collected will fuel scientific study for decades to come", said mission project scientist Linda Spilker, from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. At this point, the mission will conclude with Cassini plunging into Saturn's atmosphere.

The flyby also put Cassini on course for its dramatic last act, known as the Grand Finale. During the last dive on September 15, Cassini is slated to destroy itself by flying directly into Saturn's crushing atmosphere. The European Geosciences Union will hold a press conference at 1:30 p.m. GMT (9:30 a.m. EDT) Tuesday to preview the Grand Finale and to talk about some of Cassini's many achievements over the past 13 years.

However, Cassini did not only make a Titan flyby. The spacecraft will make the next radio contact with Earth on April 27 during which it will send another batch of images and other data.

Cassini is the most sophisticated space probe ever built.