On March 17, 2011 (Eastern Daylight Time), NASA’s robotic spacecraft MESSENGER (an acronym of MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging) successfully entered Mercury‘s orbit and made a history as it was the very first probe to orbit the innermost planet. Yesterday, on March 17, the team behind MESSENGER celebrated the 3rd orbital anniversary of the spacecraft.
Over the last three years, MESSENGER instruments have fully mapped Mercury’s surface and yielded discoveries that have changed views on how the inner planets formed and evolved. Below 350 kilometers altitude, the MESSENGER’s Narrow Angle Camera of Dual Imaging Instrument can acquire images with pixel scales, ranging from 20 meters to as little as 2 meters. With such high-resolution images, MESSENGER is able to reveal small features of the enigmatic hollows.
Lately, the spacecraft has discovered something new. On the other side, MESSENGER team is preparing to embark on a low-altitude imaging campaign that promises to reveal even more information about Mercury.
MESSENGER’s Principal Investigator Sean Solomon, of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory said, “Our spacecraft team is delighted to celebrate the third anniversary of MESSENGER’s orbit insertion at Mercury. However, some of the most exciting observations from the mission are still to come. We can expect new surprises as we view the innermost planet from closer range than ever before achieved by spacecraft.”
On the other hand, MESSENGER co-investigator Scott Murchie of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory said, “We will be seeing features at up to 10 times the resolution of the images acquired so far.”
In March 2015, the spacecraft will impact the surface of Mercury, having successfully completed four years in orbit about Mercury. However, the latest findings of MESSENGER will be disclosed in 25 papers at the 45th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Texas.
Thanks To: PhysOrg