A Short History of Epically Destroying Spacecraft in the Name of Science

by Tammy Levent

Throwing Juno headfirst into Jupiter is a pretty expensive way to end the mission, which began five years ago. How come that’s the only solution? According to NASA, burning it up in Jupiter’s atmosphere will help protect the planet’s moons; namely, Europa, which scientists still believe is one of our best bets for finding alien life. By sending Juno to die on Jupiter, we don’t run the risk of contaminating Europa with organisms from Earth.

Key Takeaways:

  • gave us the first view from inside Saturn’s rings, and told us more than we could ever have imagined about the second-largest planet in our solar system
  • From the 1960s to the 1980s, the Russian Venera missions traveled to Venus with orbiters, probes, and landers to learn more about our hot neighbor’s mysterious surface and thick, obscuring atmosphere
  • Much like Cassini, the Galileo mission had discovered conditions on one of another planet’s moons (Jupiter, in this case) that potentially could support life.

“AFTER 20 YEARS OF HURTLING through space, Cassini is now nothing but molecules scattered in the Saturnine atmosphere.”


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