On Sept. 15, the Cassini mission is coming to an end after a 13-year tour of the ringed planet by plunging into the gas giant, offering never-before-seen images. The $3.3 billion spacecraft is running out of fuel, and NASA will use what's left to penetrate Saturn's atmosphere, take samples and photos inside the rings, transmit that data back to Earth and then, finally, burn up.
NASA is ending the mission because the spacecraft will become hard to control once the fuel gets too low, and scientists want to avoid the possibility of Cassini crashing into one of Saturn's moons, which could disrupt future studies of those moons and their ability to sustain life.
In the special episode of Space's Deepest Secrets: Cassini, Science Channel will document the 20-year mission and the months leading up to what NASA is calling the "grand finale." It will show the images taken right before the crash as well as its other discoveries and images. The special will air at 9 p.m. ET/PT Tuesday, Sept. 19.
Meanwhile, the network will go live at 7:50 a.m. Friday, Sept. 15, broadcasting Cassini's final moments.
"After spending more than a decade following the amazing Cassini spacecraft, it's a great opportunity to celebrate the mission and team behind one of humanity's most profound journeys of exploration," said Wyatt Channell, executive producer at Science Channel.
Science Channel will also premiere an episode of The Planets that explores Saturn on Tuesday, Sept. 12, at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The Planets is hosted by former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino.
The live coverage comes on the heels of Science Channel's live broadcast of the recent solar eclipse.