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.

Scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., said Messenger's systems performed flawlessly.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said the spacecraft swooped around Earth, using the planet's gravity to significantly change its trajectory, sending it toward Venus for another gravity-assist flyby next year.

Launched Aug. 3, 2004, from Cape Canaveral, Fla., the solar-powered spacecraft is approximately 581 million miles into its 4.9-billion-mile voyage that includes 14 more loops around the sun.

Messenger will fly past Venus twice and Mercury three times before moving into orbit for a year-long science mission around Mercury.

"This Earth flyby is the first of a number of critical mission milestones during Messenger's circuitous journey toward Mercury orbit insertion," said Sean Solomon, the mission's chief scientist. "Not only did it help the spacecraft sharpen its aim toward our next maneuver, it presented a special opportunity to calibrate several of our science instruments."

Copyright 2005 by United Press International

Explore further: France raises heat on decision for next Ariane rocket

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How Titan's haze help us understand life's origins

Aug 25, 2014

Where did life on Earth come from? There are several theories as to what might have happened. Maybe comets came bearing organic material, or life was transported from another planet such as Mars, or something ...

Cassini tracks clouds developing over a Titan sea

Aug 12, 2014

(Phys.org) —NASA's Cassini spacecraft recently captured images of clouds moving across the northern hydrocarbon seas of Saturn's moon Titan. This renewed weather activity, considered overdue by researchers, ...

Recommended for you

Miranda: An icy moon deformed by tidal heating

8 hours ago

Miranda, a small, icy moon of Uranus, is one of the most visually striking and enigmatic bodies in the solar system. Despite its relatively small size, Miranda appears to have experienced an episode of intense ...

The latest observations of interstellar particles

14 hours ago

With all the news about Voyager 1 leaving the heliosphere and entering interstellar space you might think that the probe is the first spacecraft to detect interstellar particles. That isn't entirely true, ...

User comments : 0