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Space & Astronomy

Messenger spacecraft smashes in to Mercury

By T.K. Randall
May 1, 2015 · Comment icon 21 comments



An artist's impression of Messenger in orbit around Mercury. Image Credit: NASA/JHU/APL
After more than a decade in space NASA's Messenger spacecraft has ended its mission with a bang.
Launched aboard a Delta II rocket in August 2004, Messenger flew by Mercury three times before eventually settling in to orbit in 2011.

The mission had been originally planned to last just one year but thanks to a series of flight-extending maneuvers the team at NASA were able to keep it going for an additional three. Once its fuel had run out they had even managed to extend the probe's life further still by venting helium gas in to the spacecraft's thrusters.

During its four-year mission Messenger returned over 270,000 images and 10 terabytes of scientific data about the closest planet to the sun. Its discoveries included finding water ice hidden inside craters at the planet's poles and the revelation that Mercury's magnetic field was strangely off-center.
Eventually though, with every last drop of available fuel utterly spent, the probe went out in a blaze of glory by smashing headlong in to the surface of the planet leaving a crater the size of a tennis court.

"A lot of people didn't give this spacecraft much of a chance of even getting to Mercury, let alone going into orbit and then gathering data for four years instead of the original scheduled one-year mission," said William McClintock, principal investigator of Messenger's spectrometer instrument.

"In the end, most of what we considered to be gospel about Mercury turned out to be a little different than we thought."

Source: BBC News | Comments (21)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #12 Posted by paperdyer 8 years ago
Thanks Merc14. With this "shade" we can get a new answer to the old (non PC) blond joke about traveling to the Sun instead of "silly, we'll go at night!"
Comment icon #13 Posted by Merc14 8 years ago
Thanks Merc14. With this "shade" we can get a new answer to the old (non PC) blond joke about traveling to the Sun instead of "silly, we'll go at night!"
Comment icon #14 Posted by BeastieRunner 8 years ago
Why not crash it into the sun? The readings would've been fantastic!
Comment icon #15 Posted by Kiltedmusician 8 years ago
I wonder how many planets we have put man made objects on now. The moon, mars, mercury, where else? Venus?
Comment icon #16 Posted by Rofflaren 8 years ago
The reason why they crashed it is so that the aliens wont get ahold of our awesome technology.. Just think how they conspire there now (mercury military) that it wasn't a spacecraft from earth is was a weatherballoon..
Comment icon #17 Posted by Merc14 8 years ago
Why not crash it into the sun? The readings would've been fantastic! It was out of fuel and wasn't designed to study a star, plus we have several space-borne observatories watching and studying the sun
Comment icon #18 Posted by Blurfoot 8 years ago
Does anyone know what type of heat shield was used? It didn't need a heat shield, because it all took place in the same Disney studio where the moon landings were faked.
Comment icon #19 Posted by qxcontinuum 8 years ago
RIP (Rest in Pieces)
Comment icon #20 Posted by Astra- 8 years ago
On it's finale - Messenger was predicted to impact on the surface at nearly 4 kilometers per second. In other words - over 8,700 miles per hour - and creating a new crater. It's totally mind boggling http://apod.nasa.gov...d/ap150501.html
Comment icon #21 Posted by JesseCuster 8 years ago
I wonder how many planets we have put man made objects on now. The moon, mars, mercury, where else? Venus? The USSR landed a probe on Venus in the 1970s and an ESA probe, Huygens, landed on Titan in 2005.


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