There's a rumor going around that the initial OMB budget proposal (which goes to NASA, then back to OMB to become the final administration budget) calls for shutting down both Cassini and MESSENGER to save money.
No more details than that. But we may be seeing a repeat of what happened with the Apollo seismic instruments when budget cuts are ending ongoing data collection.
Dumb dumb da-dumb dumb.
This sounds incredibly short-sighted. We have a big, perfectly good spacecraft that spent a heck of a long time getting to its destination, and we can't afford to pay someone to plan its operations and talk to it?
I know operating it can't be that simple, but seriously... How much would it cost, if spread out over a single full-time lead and some grad-students (work for practically minimum wage) and a small amount of DSN (or, heck, ESTRACK) bandwidth?
I just don't understand why we ever turn these guys off when their instruments are still returning useful data and the tanks still have plenty of propellant in them. It costs billions of dollars to send these guys out there and decades to get from conception to arrival at the target. We have no other presence at Saturn, an incredibly diverse and fascinating system that we are still learning new things about all the time.
Heck, amateur reception of Cassini's signals has been demonstrated: http://www.qsl.net/ct1dmk/dsn.html
(Even some signal from Voyager 1 was detected...)http://www.ke5fx.com/hpll.htm