After 13 years, 293 orbits around Saturn, and more than 3,000 scientific papers, NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft bid the universe a final adieu.

In one of the most successful explorations of our solar system, Cassini made discovery after discovery about Saturn and its moons, including transmitting pictures that show that some of the ringed planet’s moons are possibly habitable.

Finally, its mission came to an end Friday morning when it plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere.

Scientists purposely sent the spacecraft to its demise because they were concerned that once the spacecraft ran out of fuel, it would crash onto one of Saturn’s moons.

The plunge brings to a close a grand finale of 22 dives between Saturn and its rings spread over the same number of weeks.  It was a feat never before attempted by any spacecraft.

Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said about Cassini’s final mission:

“This is the final chapter of an amazing mission, but it’s also a new beginning. Cassini’s discovery of ocean worlds at Titan and Enceladus changed everything, shaking our views to the core about surprising places to search for potential life beyond Earth.”

“It’s a bittersweet, but fond, farewell to a mission that leaves behind an incredible wealth of discoveries that have changed our view of Saturn and our solar system, and will continue to shape future missions and research,” Michael Watkins, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, added.

JPL designed, developed and assembled the spacecraft, with Watson managing the Cassini mission.

Flip to the next page for more from Cassini’s finale!