It hit the news last week that Cassini, the plucky little satellite which has been orbiting Saturn for many, many years, was going to be sacrificed. Running low on fuel it was decided to send Cassini into the atmosphere where it would burn up and totally vaporize. The order was given and Cassini duly took the plunge.
The amount of data sent back to Earth from Cassini is incalculable. Scientists have based their entire careers on the data garnered from this satellite.The very decision to vapourize it instead of crashing it into Titan was based on information sent back from Cassini. There is a very slim chance that life could exist on Titan, and so, Cassini could not go there for fear it could contaminate that possibility.
I found it hard not to personify the satellite as it took its final plunge.
Then a friend harkened me back to the days before its launch. NASA put out a call for people who wanted their names on Cassini. Everyone where I work added their names and they were duly sent away to NASA and up on the rocket.
I forgot all about it until the friend reminded me. My name is now vaporized and drifting around Saturn.There is no physical significance to this information, but on some level I find that it does matter to me. Ave Cassini.
Images courtesy: NASA JPL-Caltech Space Science Institute
(G.Rosemary Ludlow 20 September 2017)