Free online activity explains MESSENGER spacecraft's Mercury flyby on Sept. 29

Sep 21, 2009
The spacecraft MESSENGER is on a journey to become the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. While it won't orbit the planet until March 2011, it has already collected valuable data, such as these enhanced-color image mosaics shown in orthographic projection and created from wide-angle camera images. A free online simulator created by staff at MSU's Burns Technology Center helps explain how the spacecraft uses gravity to alter its path. Image courtesy: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Arizona State University/Carnegie Institution of Washington

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft will fly past the planet Mercury on Sept. 29, and a free online simulator created by staff at Montana State University's Burns Technology Center helps explain how the spacecraft uses gravity to alter its path.

Designed for people of all ages and ability levels, it is available, along with other space science resources for teachers and the public, at: www.messenger-education.org/students/animations.php

MESSENGER, whose mission is to study Mercury, was launched atop a Delta II Rocket in 2004 and has since flown more than 3.5 billion miles. On Sept. 29, MESSENGER will fly past Mercury for the third and final time before being inserted into orbit about Mercury in 2011, where it will remain to collect data for one full Earth year.

MESSENGER stands for "MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging."

The online simulator explores the "gravity-assist maneuver," in which a nears a planet and uses that planet's to alter the speed and of its flight path. MESSENGER will have used this maneuver six times during its mission--flying past Earth once, Venus twice and Mercury three times.

The Assist Simulator was developed by staff at MSU's Burns Technology Center as part of a NASA-funded outreach grant. For more information, go to: http://www.messenger-education.org/students/animations.php

Provided by Montana State University (news : web)

Explore further: SpaceX mile-high escape test will feature 'Buster' the dummy

Related Stories

Messenger spacecraft on way to Mercury

Aug 03, 2005

NASA's Messenger spacecraft swung by Earth for a Tuesday gravity assist that propelled it deeper into space on its long journey toward Mercury.

MESSENGER On Its Way

Aug 04, 2004

The MESSENGER spacecraft lifted off on-time aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket from pad 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 2:15:56.537 a.m. EDT. MESSENGER has successfully begun its mission to u ...

NASA rescheduled MESSENGER start to Mercury to August 3

Aug 02, 2004

Today's launch of the MESSENGER spacecraft has been canceled due to weather constraints. The launch team will try again tomorrow, August 3, at 2:15:56 a.m. MESSENGER is a scientific investigation of the planet ...

MESSENGER Returns Images from Oct. 6 Mercury Fly-By

Oct 07, 2008

MESSENGER is the first mission sent to orbit the planet closest to the sun. On Oct. 6, 2008, at roughly 4:40 a.m. ET, MESSENGER flew by Mercury for the second time this year. During the encounter, the probe ...

Spacecraft Tandem Provide New Views of Venus

Jul 19, 2007

NASA's Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging spacecraft, known as Messenger, and the European Space Agency's Venus Express recently provided the most detailed multi-point images of ...

Messenger Sets Course For Earth Flyby

Jun 29, 2005

A short maneuver on June 23 kept Messenger on track for its Aug. 2 flyby of Earth – the major gravity assist that starts the next leg of the spacecraft's journey toward Mercury.

Recommended for you

Video: An enormous "plasma snake" erupts from the Sun

May 01, 2015

Over the course of April 28–29 a gigantic filament, briefly suspended above the surface of the sun, broke off and created an enormous snakelike eruption of plasma that extended millions of miles out into ...

20 ExoWorlds are now available for naming proposals

May 01, 2015

Although people have been naming celestial objects for millennia, the IAU has the task of assigning scientifically recognised names to newly discovered celestial bodies by its member countries. The NameExoWorlds ...

Giant telescope takes close look at Jupiter's moon Io

May 01, 2015

With the first detailed observations through imaging interferometry of a lava lake on a moon of Jupiter, the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory places itself as the forerunner of the next generation of ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

zevkirsh
not rated yet Sep 21, 2009
seems like the best way to study mercury for a long time would be from it's L2 Lagrange point, shielded permanently from the ridiculously hot sun. surely, the solar wind and extended radioation will fry any sattelite in a short period of time. then again theres' no sense in being in the sahde all the time, so perhaps a highly elliptical orbit where the sattlite is only on the sunny side of mercury for a short period of time relative to the shady side.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.