Launched aboard a Titan IVB/Centaur on October 15, 1997, Cassini was active in space for nearly 20 years, with 13 years spent orbiting Saturn and studying the planet and its system after entering orbit on July 1, 2004. The voyage to Saturn included flybys of Venus (April 1998 and July 1999), Earth (August 1999), the asteroid 2685 Masursky, and Jupiter (December 2000). The mission ended on September 15, 2017, when Cassini’s trajectory took it into Saturn’s upper atmosphere and it burned up in order to prevent any risk of contaminating Saturn’s moons, which might have offered habitable environments to stowaway terrestrial microbes on the spacecraft. The mission is widely perceived[by whom?] to have been successful beyond expectations. NASA’s Planetary Science Division Director, Jim Green, described Cassini-Huygens as a “mission of firsts”, that has revolutionized human understanding of the Saturn system, including its moons and rings, and our understanding of where life might be found in the Solar System. 
However, Dr. Thomas explained to the press in May 2013 that the ring arcs are much more tenuous than the fully formed rings of Saturn. As a matter of fact, the ring arcs are so delicate and thin that it would take about ten billion years for just 1 meter of blowing icy snow to collect within the craters of Methone. The largest, shining object in Earth's starlit night sky, our Moon has long been the source of mystery, myth, and poetry--a captivating inspiration for those who stare at the sky in wonder. But Earth's Moon is a very real object--the only body beyond our own planet that we have actually set foot upon, leaving our lingering footprints in its distant, alien dust. Earth's Moon has been with us almost from the very beginning, and even though it is our planet's closest companion in space, it has nonetheless managed to keep some of its ancient secrets very well. In September 2015, astronomers released a new study that shed light on Earth's bewitching companion's ancient and secretive past. Although our Moon now appears to be unchanging, as if it has always been exactly the same as it appears now--going through its beautiful and, yet, familiar phases, and controlling our ocean tides--in the distant past, things were actually very different. Cassini is an unmanned spacecraft sent to the Saturn system. It is the fourth space probe to visit the ringed planet, as well as the first to enter orbit. It has been studying Saturn and its many moons since arriving there in 2004.