Happy anniversary, Cassini spacecraft

June 30 is the 10-year anniversary of the Cassini spacecraft’s successful insertion into orbit around Saturn. Imaging team leader Carolyn Porco expresses the wonder.

Here's one of the latest views of Saturn by Cassini.  This composite image was snapped by the Cassini spacecraft on May 4, 2014 and processed by Val Klavans. More details: on Flickr

The Cassini spacecraft was used to capture this image was captured on May 4, 2014. It was processed by Val Klavans. More details: on Flickr

In the past 10 years, no spacecraft has consistently delivered the wonder of our solar system like the flagship-class NASA-ESA robotic spacecraft Cassini. No surprise, because it’s orbiting the amazing planet Saturn, world of rings and moons. June 30, 2014 is the 10-year anniversary of Cassini’s insertion into orbit around Saturn. It’s hard to convey in words how wonderful the Cassini images have been since that great day. They are stark, pleasingly symmetric and startling in their beauty. Carolyn Porco, who leads the imaging science team on the Cassini mission, had this to say today on CICLOPS, the official website of the Cassini imaging team.

On the night of June 30, 2004, we flawlessly guided ourselves into orbit around Saturn, and in doing so, took up residence in the house of the sun’s most glorious planet. Our long voyage to this faraway place was over, and we were about to embark on a scientific exploration that would make history. It was hard to take it all in. I was certain that evening there was nothing we could not do.

The last decade has been the kind that can define a human life. Wandering a distant, alien wilderness of endlessly moving worlds, all of us under the commanding and splendidly garlanded presence at its center, one can surely be forgiven for feelings of rapture and sacred calling. It changes you. It has changed me.

And it has changed all of us, Carolyn, who have been privileged to view these images. Thank you and congratulations, Cassini mission imaging team!

Want to see some of the images? Here are a few, from past EarthSky posts:

Best images of great Saturn storm of 2011

Night and day on Saturn

Crescent Saturn

Best views of Saturn hexagon

Saturn’s moon rains water onto Saturn

A 360-degree view of Saturn’s auroras

Saturn’s largest and second-largest moons

Rainbow rings of Saturn

Video: Ride with the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn

Cassini finds vortex at south pole of Saturn’s moon Titan

Image from Cassini captures five of Saturn’s moons

NASA Cassini spacecraft provides new view of Saturn and Earth

Yin and yang of Saturn’s moon Iapetus

Cassini spies Venus from Saturn’s orbit

Blazing objects in Saturn’s weirdest ring

Bottom line: June 30, 2014 is the 10-year anniversary of the Cassini spacecraft’s insertion into orbit around Saturn. Don’t we live in an amazing time of history?

Deborah Byrd