In addition to images taken with DISR, the lander recorded data that enabled LPL staff scientist Erich Karkoschka to gather surprising clues about Titan's surface many years after the event. It unveiled moonlets embedded in the rings.
"Some of our key science goals during the Grand Finale are trying to understand Saturn from the inside out, to figure out the length of a Saturn day and to determine the mass of the rings and the composition of Saturn's atmosphere", Spilker said.
Cassini will enter Saturn's atmosphere at an altitude of about 1,915 km above the planet's estimated cloud tops, where the air pressure is 1-bar, equivalent to sea level on Earth.
Under the vast heat and pressure of Saturn's atmosphere, Cassini will transform from relatively healthy (if low on gas) little spacecraft to, well, a very expensive and beloved little fireball. He also was the first person to observe Titan. On June 30, 2004, the spacecraft successfully entered the orbit of Saturn carrying the Huygens probe.
Although Cassini will soon cease to exist, at least one full-size representation of the venerable spacecraft will remain on display.
"The mission has been insanely, wildly, beautifully successful", Curt Niebur, Cassini program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, gushed during a recent media teleconference.
In its time Cassini made 22 daring orbits that allowed the probe to slip between Saturn and its rings. They do not want any earthly organisms that may be on Cassini to contaminate a moon that may have life.
SPACECRAFT: Traveling too far from the sun to reap its energy, Cassini used plutonium for electrical power to feed its science instruments.
And the spacecraft itself, as well as its instruments, are informing future missions that NASA has planned, like NASA's Europa Clipper mission to explore Jupiter's icy moon, launching in the 2020s.
When was Cassini launched and how long did it take to reach Saturn?
Scientists are intentionally destroying the spacecraft so it doesn't crash into one of Saturn's moons.
After a small flash of light in the Saturnian sky, the spacecraft will be gone.
The spacecraft is being ditched in the atmosphere of Saturn on Friday, bringing to an end 13 years of discovery at the ringed planet. Or perhaps multiple such collisions occurred. Saturn has been Cassini's home for the last 13 years. During its long mission, Cassini has been able to provide some mind blowing and unknown details about Saturn, its rings and its 60 odd moons.
The discovery of ocean worlds on some of Saturn's moons could mean life. Incredibly, geysers of water vapor and ice shoot out of cracks in Enceladus' south pole.
Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at JPL, may have been the by-the-numbers guy in the presentation, but he also waxed poetic after stating that some 635 gigabytes of collected scientific data became part of almost 4,000 scientific papers. (Except maybe whoever is tweeting on the orbiter's behalf.) Cassini's true value was as a science machine, and an exceptionally good one at that.
NEXT UP: Scientists would love to return to Enceladus or Titan to search for any potential life.