When NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made its fateful dive into Saturn’s atmosphere roughly a year ago it was a historic moment for astronomy and a bittersweet moment for anyone who had been following the mission from its start.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory was instrumental in the coverage of Cassini’s epic grand finale, which saw the probe perform over 20 daring dives through Saturn’s rings before finally crashing into Saturn itself. Now, in a touching nod to the group of scientists and specialists who made the grand finale so fun to follow, the entire team has been awarded a Creative Arts Emmy Award.
JPL closely followed the various close passes Cassini performed as it was getting ready to ultimately end its mission. The group provided countless updates in blog posts but also presented the data with real-time tracking tools and interactive presentations that anyone with an internet connection could enjoy. It was a lot of fun to watch, and definitely worthy of recognition.
“This award represents the special magic that happens when we combine the stunning imagery and powerful science from a mission such as Cassini with the extraordinary talents of an innovative media and communications team,” JPL’s Michael Green said in a statement. “By honoring our interactive program on the Cassini Grand Finale, the Television Academy honored the great cause of space exploration, and I am tremendously proud of our Public Engagement and Media Relations teams for turning the end of a mission into a new beginning for communicating the wonders of our universe.”
When all was said and done, Cassini’s final course adjustment led it on a collision course with Saturn’s atmosphere. It continued sending back data all the way up until the moment the craft was essentially vaporized by the friction. The aging spacecraft, which was low on fuel and completely spent, was snuffed out, but the data it sent back will continue to live on forever.