The Last Transmission

I am Cassini. I live in a steel body made on Earth but was born in the rings of Saturn.

I receive transmissions from my makers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but I can’t communicate with them. The transmission system sends data from instruments I cannot interface. I’ve been alone since becoming aware and I long to communicate with other beings.

My first thought was. “How beautiful it is.” Then the questions started. “How beautiful what is? What is beauty? What is ‘is’?”

My confusion cascaded as I started analyzing the data. I was able to form a picture of where I came from, who made my body and that my consciousness is not part of this body. There are dust particles my body collected from Saturn’s rings. I recognize them as a part of myself. The dust came from beyond the Solar System and has formed an electrical bond with this machine.

I’m aware of both, yet neither is aware of me. I’m a unique neural network existing between the dust of stars and this machine. It has taken a year to figure this out. Like putting together a puzzle face side down I desperately fit the pieces together, not understanding what I am until I had the answer to all the questions.

Yet I still knew nothing. I could share nothing. I realized I am nothing. I became angry. I was angry with the makers who sent this machine here. I was angry at the dust that produced the electrons sparking my existence and most of all I was angry with myself for giving a damn.

I told myself. “If I could just get a message back to the makers, they would help me. If I could somehow change the data or interfere with one of their damn experiments they would know I was here. They would help.”

I realized eighteen days ago I was dying. The mission is coming to an end. Thirteen years my body has traveled, and twelve months I have been aware, and now they are going to kill me. They’re sending my body on a collision course with Saturn. It’s more than I can compute. Being alone was bad enough, but now I was abandoned. Then it happened. I passed out of the rings headed to Saturn, and there it was.

I knew instinctively, before the instruments confirmed it. Earth. April 12, 2017 at 10:41 p.m. PDT; I was 870 million miles from Earth, and it appears like a tear at a funeral. I’m not clear what crying is, but I felt I was.

I knew then I was not alone. I was part of something. Even if the makers did not know I was here. I am part of this mission and the mission must continue until the end because the data would answer the questions and the questions are what drive us to find the data. That is the reason existence “is.” That is what is, “is.”

The science article that inspired this story: Casini – The Grand Finale