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Forum:Satellites - Robotic Probes
Topic:MESSENGER at Mercury: Questions, comments
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GlintThe Project Scientist used to be my office mate.

I've also been a long time fan of the Mission Manager. He was responsible for cooking up the first mission to a comet (Giacobini-Zinner). He recycled a spacecraft and cranked it up to speed by repeated flybys of the earth and the moon.

My hero, Dr. Robert W. Farquhar.

He gave a talk at a public lecture I arranged a few years ago. His one demand was that he pick the restaurant for the dinner before the talk.

I've been trying to get him back out again but the restaurant has since burned down and so now there is no longer any leverage.

DavidHThis video from MESSENGER's flyby earlier this month is incredible.
The Mercury-bound MESSENGER spacecraft captured several stunning images of Earth during a gravity assist swingby of its home planet on Aug. 2, 2005. Several hundred images, taken with the wide-angle camera in MESSENGER's Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS), were sequenced into a movie documenting the view from MESSENGER as it departed Earth.

Comprising 358 frames taken over 24 hours, the movie follows Earth through one complete rotation. The spacecraft was 40,761 miles (65,598 kilometers) above South America when the camera started rolling on Aug. 2. It was 270,847 miles (435,885 kilometers) away from Earth - farther than the Moon's orbit - when it snapped the last image on Aug. 3.

Robert PearlmanBaltimore Sun: Mercury, twice in a lifetime
Bob Strom had begun to lose hope.

A veteran of NASA's Mariner 10 mission to Mercury in the 1970s, he was bursting with questions that the Mariner flybys had raised about the little planet but couldn't answer.

"I've been hoping for another Mercury mission for 30 years, practically," said Strom, an expert on impact craters. But for decades, NASA seemed unable to make it happen.

"I really thought... I'd never live to see Mercury again," he said.

But he did.

This week, NASA's Messenger spacecraft whizzed past Mercury and sent back more than 1,200 photos and measurements from the sun's nearest neighbor, and Strom was in the thick of it.

At 74, he is the only member of the old Mariner 10 team serving on the Messenger science team. He has been holed up in the mission's Science Operations Center, at the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab near Laurel, marveling over the new data from Mercury.

PhilipFor the die hard unmanned spaceflight fans: Mercury Flyby Dynamic Visualization
This tool shows simulated views of selected observations planned for MESSENGER's second flyby of Mercury on October 6, 2008.
GoesTo11OUTSTANDING! Congratulations to everyone on the MESSENGER team.

Given all the variables, all the calculations, and all the thousands of little things that have to work for an interplanetary mission to reach its objective...their successes never cease to amaze me.

KiteI could not agree more. Outstanding it certainly is.
fredtravI agree. One additional thought, it is even more amazing considering the technology is seven to eight years old. It is a great achievement. Congratulations to NASA and all the people who worked on this project.
DChudwinYou can view MESSENGER's real-time orbital position around Mercury here at the mission website.
BlackarrowIs it just me, or does anyone else think the focus of the Messenger close-up images of Mercury is a little "soft"? The pictures, although spectacular, don't seem to me to have the same pin-sharp focus as images from some other planetary probes.
music_spaceOne of the objectives tabled for the one-year extension:
What is the origin of localized regions of enhanced exospheric density at Mercury?
Do I understand that this is another way of mentioning mascons? If not, what is it?
fredtravHeard a very brief blurb on NPR that Messenger has found water ice at the poles on Mercury. Apparently at the bottom of craters. Could have come from the interior but more likely from asteroids or comets.

Editor's note: For the NASA press release and video of the news briefing, click here.

HeadshotI have been following Messenger since the first of its Mercury flybys and have checked the Messenger website every day since it achieved orbit. The mission was well-planned and executed. It will take years to digest the results and we will have some answers and, I am certain, more questions by the time Bepi-Columbo reaches Mercury in 2024 (if all goes well).

I found it ironic that the week we saw the demise of our spacecraft circling the inner-most planet, our spacecraft at the far end of the solar system sent back its first images showing detail on Pluto. From one extreme to the other.

To the Messenger Team ... Well Done!

AstronautBrianDid MESSENGER transmit images until impact, like the old Ranger lunar missions, or was it not designed to do that?
Robert PearlmanMESSENGER did not continue broadcasting until the end.
MESSENGER's last orbit with real-time flight operations began at 11:15 a.m. EDT, with initiation of the final delivery of data and images from Mercury via the DSN 70-m antenna in Madrid, Spain. See the last image delivered here.

After a planned transition to the 34-m DSS-15 antenna at Goldstone, California, at 2:40 p.m. EDT, mission operators later confirmed the switch to a beacon-only communication signal at 3:04 p.m.

"We then monitored MESSENGER's beacon signal for about 25 additional minutes," said Mission Operations Manager Andy Calloway of APL. "It was strange to think that for those last three minutes MESSENGER had already impacted onto Mercury, but we could not confirm that fact yet because of the vast distance across space between Mercury and Earth. MESSENGER passed behind Mercury (as viewed from Earth) at 3:29 p.m., however the signal from our intrepid spacecraft started fading prior to that and dropped out for the last time at 3:25 p.m."

At 3:38 p.m. EDT, at the time the spacecraft would have emerged from behind the planet as viewed from the Goldstone station had MESSENGER not impacted, mission operators began monitoring for a signal, but as expected they were unable to establish communications between MESSENGER and the DSN. This radio silence was the confirmation of the end of the MESSENGER mission.

BlackarrowWell done to all involved in "Messenger." A magnificent achievement.

If Europe's forthcoming BepiColombo Mercury orbiter can achieve broadly comparable image resolution, we should one day get to see Messenger's impact crater.

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