How many times can you say an inanimate object won an Emmy, especially one that orbited Saturn and its moons before it took a kamikaze plunge into the gas giant’s atmosphere last year?
Cassini itself will never know (and never would have known anyway seeing as how it had no human brain). It’s really the NASA JPL Media Relations and Public Engagement teams and Cassini mission leaders who earned the Creative Arts Emmy for everything this amazing orbiter discovered and beamed back to Earth during its 20 years in space and 13 years fascinating all of us back on Earth with its data and images from Saturn.
"This award represents the special magic that happens when we combine the stunning imagery and powerful science from a mission such as Cassini with the extraordinary talents of an innovative media and communications team,” said JPL Communications and Education Director Michael Greene.
The honor given to the Cassini Grand Finale by the Television Academy has gone beyond just Cassini and to the entire universe of space exploration. This is when social media is actually more than just a source of endless cat memes and YouTube fail videos. The teams involved in the satellite’s social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (on which there were sometimes live broadcasts) and the Cassini mission website made the internet the opposite of a place where brain cells go to die. The end of this epic mission brought on a new era of virtually exploring another planet from your laptop or smartphone.
NASA’s legendary orbiter embarked on a kamikaze mission into the unknown when it began to run out of fuel last year. The satellite first ventured into the unexplored space between Saturn and its rings on April 26, 2017 and finally plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere on September 15, 2017, sending back last-minute science and unprecedented images of those iconic rings that not only look amazing as your desktop background but have revealed the secrets of Saturn to everyone on Earth.
"The Cassini team is tremendously grateful that our mission's amazing story was told in such a creative way by the communications team at JPL, and that the TV Academy has chosen to honor that story. Receiving an Emmy is one more amazing first for Cassini," Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize said.
Besides social media, the interactive campaign that made so many Earthlings obsess over Cassini included a mission event from inside JPL mission control (aka the coolest thing ever), interactive press and educational materials, articles with each update, software that tracked the orbiter in real time (also the coolest thing ever), an art celebration, and web and live TV broadcasts where questions from reporters and the public were answered from takeoff to endgame.
"To an incredible spacecraft that could and did. To an amazing mission that guided her. To our public that followed her for 20 years before she plunged into Saturn but sent science to the end,” said JPL Public Engagement Office manager Alice Wessen. “Go NASA!"