Friday, January 11, 2008

NASA spacecraft has a date with Mercury next week

Next week NASA's MESSENGER probe will skim just 124 miles (200 km) above Mercury's uncharted hemisphere. The craft's closest pass will occur at 2:04 p.m. EST (1904 GMT) on Monday. It will conduct three flybys that will help it reduce speed and ultimately enter Mercury's atmosphere. Launched in August of 2004 MESSENGER will be the first spacecraft to visit Mercury since NASA's Mariner 10 probe swung past the planet three times between 1974 and 1975. MESSENGER will enter orbit in 2011 for a one-year science campaign. The mission will have a total price tag of around $446 million and will probe the secrets of Mercury, from its wispy thin atmosphere to an unusually dense interior. The mission will also generate the first maps of some 55 percent of the planet's rocky surface. The craft will travel a total distance of 4.9 billion miles to get to Mercury. Over half of the planet hasn't been mapped and the flyby will take the first photos of it in 33 years. The team from NASA is anxious for the first of the nearly 1200 photos to start flowing in.

Here is a picture MESSENGER took from around 3 million miles away from Mercury:
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Darnell Clayton said...

It will be really interesting to see what shows up on that sun baked world, although it is a shame that we haven't really mapped out the surface of the planet yet.

Ironically we spend more money mapping Venus and Titan (which are harder due to the thick atmospheres) than bare Mercury.

Oh well, at least we are doing it.

PS: I'm adding your site to my blog roll (underneath the Space Policy section), as well as subscribing as well.

Good to see more space blogs online--we need all the help we can get. :-)

Bob Johnson said...

Cool post, I'll be a watching.

The Fool said...

Yep it will be interesting to see what comes out of this venture of NASA's. Hopefully it will give some good data and provide lots to study. Personally I really want to see some of the pictures.

And Darnell thanks for the add. I really like your blog too so I will be adding it right away to my blogroll.

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