Saturn spacecraft gets funny opera send-off

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - NASA's Cassini spacecraft is getting a grand but hilarious opera send-off before it plunges through Saturn's atmosphere and vaporizes Friday.

An actor from TV's old ``Star Trek: Voyager'' series, Robert Picardo, says he dashed off the lyrics in about a minute, several weeks ago. He collaborated with the creative director of the Planetary Society, and, presto, "Le Cassini Opera" was born.

Picardo set the words to the instantly recognizable aria ``La Donna e mobile'' from Verdi's ``Rigoletto.''

While Cassini's 20-year mission has been ``a serious success,'' according to Picardo, the opera is definitely a comedy. Here's how it opens: ``Goodbye, Cassini. Your mission's fini. Bravo, Cassini! Have some linguini.'' And on it goes, paying humorous tribute.

For the record, Cassini's program manager, Earl Maize, loves the performance.