MESSENGER is only the second spacecraft to set sights on Mercury. Mariner 10 sailed past it three times in 1974 and 1975 and gathered detailed data on less than half the surface.
Carrying seven scientific instruments on its compact and durable composite frame, MESSENGER will provide the first images of the entire planet. The mission will also collect detailed information on the composition and structure of Mercury's crust, its geologic history, the nature of its thin atmosphere and active magnetosphere, and the makeup of its core and polar materials.
MESSENGER's science team will shape its investigation around several questions, including: Why is Mercury — the densest planet in the solar system — mostly made of iron? Why is it the only inner planet besides Earth with a global magnetic field? How can the planet closest to the sun, with daytime temperatures near 450 degrees Celsius (840 F), have what appears to be ice in its polar craters?
Posts: 747 From: New Windsor, Maryland USA Registered: Jan 2004
posted 02-13-2004 04:54 PM
The 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.
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.
Posts: 1181 From: Huntsville, AL, USA Registered: Jun 2003
posted 08-31-2005 10:22 AM
This 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 Pearlman Editor
Posts: 27328 From: Houston, TX Registered: Nov 1999
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.
Posts: 4803 From: Brussels, Belgium Registered: Jan 2001
This tool shows simulated views of selected observations planned for MESSENGER's second flyby of Mercury on October 6, 2008.
Posts: 1026 From: Denver, CO USA Registered: Jun 2004
posted 03-17-2011 09:23 PM
OUTSTANDING! 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.
Posts: 231 From: Northampton UK Registered: Nov 2009
posted 03-18-2011 12:14 PM
I could not agree more. Outstanding it certainly is.
Posts: 913 From: Birmingham AL USA Registered: Aug 2010
posted 03-18-2011 12:49 PM
I 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.
Posts: 972 From: Lincolnshire IL USA Registered: Aug 2000
posted 03-22-2011 07:31 PM
You can view MESSENGER's real-time orbital position around Mercury here at the mission website.
Posts: 2024 From: Belfast, United Kingdom Registered: Feb 2002
posted 09-01-2011 05:49 PM
Is 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.
Posts: 1050 From: Canada Registered: Jul 2001
posted 11-15-2011 08:03 PM
One 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?
Posts: 913 From: Birmingham AL USA Registered: Aug 2010
posted 11-29-2012 06:39 PM
Heard 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.
Posts: 182 From: Streamwood, IL USA Registered: Feb 2012
posted 01-06-2013 02:49 PM
Apparently NASA is seriously considering not extending MESSENGER's mission beyond March 2013, despite the fact that the spacecraft has enough propellant to continue on for two more years.
Budget issues are given as the reason for this premature shut down.
Mercury is one of the most difficult planets in which to put a spacecraft from Earth into orbit. Shutting down a working MESSENGER would be as unconscionable as shutting down the working ALSEPs left on the lunar surface.