As the Cassini spacecraft draws nearer to its imminent doom scheduled for Friday, we find ourselves reflecting on how invaluable it has been for our collective understanding of Saturn. But this wasn’t always the case.
Before the Cassini (formally Cassini-Huygens) orbiter was launched in 1997, there was no telling just what it would find. Turns out, it would go on to teach us a whole lot, including telling details about the perplexing makeup of Saturn’s rings.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on how skeptical Matt Lauer was when its mission to orbit Saturn was still young back on July 1, 2004.
“We’re talking about this happening 930-something million miles away from Earth,” Lauer said, before Tyson interrupted him to correct the record and say that it was actually billions of miles away. “At a cost of 3.3 billion dollars, risk reward, is it worth the money?”
As if you can put a value on planetary explanation.
Ever-patient, Tyson noted that this cost wouldn’t be incurred all at once but rather over the course of the full mission. He also added that Americans spend more on lip balm per year, soliciting laughs from off-camera.
“I think we should be spending more,” he added dutifully.
As the Cassini’s voyage comes to an end, as all good things must, we remember the many valuable lessons it taught us, like how the planet’s moon Titan was once home to river beds and lakes, or how Saturn experiences hurricanes remarkably similar to Earth.
And, of course, how to keep doing your thing while refusing to let the haters (like Matt Lauer) get you down.