MESSENGER On Its Way

Aug 04, 2004
NASA rescheduled MESSENGER start to Mercury to August 3

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 unravel the mysteries of planet Mercury

MESSENGER is a scientific investigation of the planet Mercury. Understanding Mercury, and the forces that have shaped it, is fundamental to understanding the terrestrial planets and their evolution. Just what is a terrestrial planet? It is a group of planets that are like Earth.

The MESSENGER spacecraft will orbit Mercury following three flybys of that planet. The orbital phase will use the flyby information as an initial guide to perform a focused scientific investigation of this mysterious world.

On a 4.9-billion mile (7.9-billion kilometer) journey that includes 15 loops around the Sun, the solar-powered MESSENGER will fly past Earth once, Venus twice and Mercury three times before easing into orbit around its target planet. The Earth flyby, a year after launch, and the Venus flybys, in October 2006 and June 2007, use the pull of the planets’ gravity to guide MESSENGER toward Mercury’s orbit. The Mercury flybys in January 2008, October 2008 and September 2009 fine-tune and slow MESSENGER’s track while allowing the spacecraft to gather data critical to planning the mission’s orbit phase.

Primary mission at Mercury:
Orbit for one Earth year (equivalent to four Mercury years, or two Mercury solar days), collecting data on the composition and structure of Mercury’s crust, its topography and geologic history, the nature of its thin atmosphere and active magnetosphere, and the makeup of its core and polar materials.

Source: NASA

Explore further: The Great Cold Spot in the cosmic microwave background

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft's 10 years in space

Aug 05, 2014

Ten years ago, on August 3, 2004, NASA's MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) spacecraft blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, for a risky mission that would take ...

MESSENGER spies a soccer ball on Mercury

Jun 27, 2014

Olé, Olé, Olé! Good news World Cup fans, a soccer ball has been found on Mercury! This 'soccer ball' is actually an old impact crater in Goethe Basin that has been flooded with volcanic lava flows, resulting in a 'ghost crater'. The pattern inside is a network of nar ...

Recommended for you

The Great Cold Spot in the cosmic microwave background

32 minutes ago

The cosmic microwave background (CMB) is the thermal afterglow of the primordial fireball we call the big bang. One of the striking features of the CMB is how remarkably uniform it is. Still, there are some ...

Winter in the southern uplands of Mars

49 minutes ago

Over billions of years, the southern uplands of Mars have been pockmarked by numerous impact features, which are often so closely packed that they overlap. One such feature is Hooke crater, shown in this ...

Five facts about NASA's ISS-RapidScat

51 minutes ago

NASA's ISS-RapidScat mission will observe ocean wind speed and direction over most of the globe, bringing a new eye on tropical storms, hurricanes and typhoons. Here are five fast facts about the mission.

User comments : 0