Blue Dot 75: Cassini's Final Mission

Oct 5, 2017

When the Cassini orbiter was sent plunging into Saturn on September 15, it was the end of a mission and the end of an era of solar system exploration. In this episode, Dave talks to two Cassini team members — one who has been with the mission since the beginning and another that is a relative newcomer.

Linda Spilker has been on the Cassini mission since its inception after the Voyager flyby of Neptune in 1989. She became the Project Scientist in 2010, overseeing all of the scientific investigations of the spacecraft.

Joan Stupik is a young engineer that was tasked with the guidance and navigation of the orbiter, directing its changes in attitude in order to take images of the giant ringed planet and its icy moons. Both were at JPL on the early morning of September 15 when the mission ended at 4:30 a.m. Pacific time with planned destruction of the spacecraft in Saturn's cloud tops. Find out what it was like to be there as well as the emotional aftermath — people get attached to their machines — and Cassini wasn't just any machine — it was an extension of our senses for the nearly two decades at Saturn.