CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - After a 20-year voyage, NASA's Cassini spacecraft is poised to dive into Saturn this week.
There's no turning back. On Friday, Cassini will careen through the atmosphere and burn up like a meteor in the sky over Saturn.
NASA is hoping for scientific dividends up until the end. Every tidbit of data radioed back from Cassini will help astronomers better understand the entire Saturnian system - rings, moons and all.
The only spacecraft ever to orbit Saturn, Cassini spent the past five months exploring the uncharted territory between the planet and its dazzling rings. On Monday, Cassini flew past jumbo moon Titan one last time. NASA calls it the goodbye kiss, which put the spacecraft on its final, no-way-out path.
The $3.9 billion mission began with a 1997 Florida launch.