Like all good things, epic space missions must come to an end. But in the case of NASA's Cassini mission around Saturn, it's going to end in dramatic style.
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After a decade in orbit around the ringed gas giant Cassini has revolutionized our understanding of Saturn's rings, moons and dynamic atmosphere. It's even put Earth in its place, as a tiny blue dot in the vast expanse of space.
Sadly, Cassini can't soldier on forever; it will run out of fuel (used by its thrusters for adjustments during orbit) - but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Until now, mission managers have tried to protect the spacecraft from any orbital risks in the interest of prolonging Cassini's life, but as the mission is now coming to a close, they can afford to be a little less careful while looking for awesome science opportunities. Starting in 2016, Cassini will be commanded to carry out a "daring set of orbits that is, in some ways, like a whole new mission," writes NASA in a recent news release.