NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn for 13 years and logged more than 4 billion miles in space, made its first dive between the planet and its signature rings on Wednesday, part of its months-long “grand finale.” The probe will spend the last of its fuel flying through the uncharted territory about 22 times, collecting data that may answer questions about the planet. After these trips, it will fly into Saturn’s atmosphere and vaporize within minutes. “I like to say it’s going out in a blaze of glory,” said Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “It will be trailblazing until the very last second.” She added, “Getting this close to the rings and the planet, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a scientist like me. We’ve wanted to do this for a long time.” If all goes well, photos from Cassini within the rings are expected later Wednesday.
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