MESSENGER successfully flies by Mercury

The MESSENGER probe zipped past Mercury yesterday in the first of three flybys needed before it settles into a regular orbit. NASA scientists say the probe survived the encounter, which brought it to within 200 km (124 miles) of the planet’s surface. MESSENGER is the first probe to visit Mercury in 30 years, so planetary scientists are excited to see what new data the new probe returns. MESSENGER (short for “MErcury Surface Space ENvironment GEochemistry and Ranging” — NASA must have a special office to devise names like this one) will investigate Mercury in ways that were not possible when Mariner 10 paid it two flyby visits in 1974. Mariner 10 was able to image only one side of Mercury. Here’s an image of Mercury taken by MESSENGER on its approach Sunday, from 760,000 kilometers away (about twice the distance from the Earth to the Moon). (Click on the image to see a larger version.) After two more flybys this year and next, MESSENGER will settle into a regular orbit in 2011 when it will begin a longterm study of the innermost planet, the first in its history. The peculiar trajectory is a fuel-saving measure, to enable the probe to ...
WP Facebook Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com