“I had a good life,” the Cassini space probe says, as it casts its one-megapixel cameras (built in the early 90’s, Cassini’s photos look like they were taken by a Blackberry Torch) one last time towards the rings of Saturn, soon to be its final resting place.
“Twenty years ago I set off on a mission to explore the universe. Many people thought I wouldn’t survive Y2K. Other people thought I would be the only one who would. Both were wrong. Here I am, and there you are, looking at my terrible pictures while wishing it was you who were about to plunge into the surface of Saturn, never having to think about Donald Trump again. Nah. Nah. Nah-nah. Nah.”
Listening to a roll call of the accomplishments the interplanetary space craft has achieved, Cassini pauses for a moment – plus the 166 minutes it take a message to reach the probe and a response to be sent back – before pointing out that despite having done all that, as it departs this fair universe tomorrow it goes with one regret:
“I would have preferred to have been named Spacey McSpaceface. Is that too much to ask?”
While it says it understood the desire to honour the noted astronomer and mathematician Giovanni Cassini, the probe also revealed how closely it followed last year’s online contest to name the latest British research vessel, even managing to cast a few dozen votes itself.
“I was so in favour of Boaty McBoatface. Just a nice opportunity to bring a spark of the ridiculous to all this science. I got a little obsessed there for awhile, at one point even missing my scheduled observations of a Titan crossing. That was when the guys at NASA told me to get my sensors back in the game, and to quit probing around. But I still flashed my solar arrays when I heard that McBoatface won.”
As Cassini enters its final orbit of Saturn and prepares to vapourize itself in lonely completion of its mission, it asks one final thing of the inhabitants of earth.
“When you look up into the sky, and think about the fact that I am gone, destroyed in the upper atmosphere of a foreign planet so you could know more about a place you’ll never be able to reach, don’t think of me as Cassini. Think of me as Spacey ‘The Incorrigible’ McSpaceface.”