The news of it having been forty years since the Voyager missions launched might have helped remind me there wasn't much time left until the Cassini space probe, which has spent over a decade among the moons of Saturn the Voyagers flew through in a matter of days, burned up in Saturn's atmosphere (along with the shielded plutonium some people raised a great fuss about before launch a month short of twenty years ago
) to make sure no possible microbes from Earth would make an accidental landing on moons now thought to have some chance to support life of their own. As I took in the features leading up to the final dive, I did get a bit conscious that while the probe has sent back plenty of photos over the length of its mission (making multiple gravity assists through the solar system to end up in a slow approach
to Saturn suitable for braking into orbit), after a while I wasn't making the effort to keep up with the mission's official sites. Just this morning, though, with a scant few hours left before loss of contact, I did see an official e-book
with plenty of good pictures in it and a few discoveries I hadn't quite picked up on before (such as the "propellors
," big chunks in Saturn's rings visibly affecting the particles around them). This wealth of images does have me thinking of the previous gas giant orbiter Galileo, whose main antenna never opened properly (and there I'm conscious of swift and sour reminders this probably had something to do with the probe having been meant to be carried into Earth orbit by the space shuttle and the delays resulting from this) and which therefore couldn't send back many pictures. Cassini, in any case, was a regular presence and will hopefully leave lasting impressions.