Cassini is the first spacecraft that was destroyed not from malfunction, or as a necessary end result of its mission… but out of love.
The probe was running out of propulsion fuel, but there’s no reason it couldn’t have been pushed into a stable orbit from where it could collect data and send back pictures for a long while yet.
Except it had detected that one of Saturn’s moons held liquid water and organic compounds: a world that might support life. A world that is, at the least, dreaming of life.
There is no orbit stable enough to be certain that the probe, carrying
and Earth’s bacteria, would never have come into contact with Enceladus. A delicate island of alien life could have been snuffed out or overrun. The sheep could have eaten the rose.
So instead - for the love of this fragile possibility, this potential that might yet never be realized - Cassini was brought into a final, intimate tango with Saturn.
But of course, all space probes are built for the sake of awe, which is nearly love. Science is rational, but scientists are driven to understand the universe just as the religious strive to know the face of God.
The Cassini probe was a 4 billion dollar machine for understanding Saturn. And yesterday, two decades after it launched from our planet, it was destroyed while sending us information about Saturn it never could have gathered from a distant, stable orbit: advancing its purpose, even knowing that it would be consumed.
Take a bucket and fill it with all of your worries.
All of them.
Every single one.
Then take that bucket, and empty it into the natural flow of the universe. Allow each worry to be washed away,
And vanish out of sight.
Allow for the natural way of things to act in its own timing. It will take away all of your worries. It knows the way, so surrender your torturous thoughts,
For everything will be alright.