April 29, 2015
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET):
Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
The largest crater in this image has a diameter of 330 meters (0.2 miles)
This image, acquired yesterday, is one of MESSENGER's last. Today, the spacecraft will complete its highly successful orbital mission and impact the surface of Mercury. View this image
for details of MESSENGER's impact location. Impact is expected at 19:26:02 UTC (3:26:02 pm EDT) but will occur out of sight and communication with the Earth. The MESSENGER team will try to establish communications with the spacecraft when its orbit would allow it to be visible from Earth. The inability to establish communications between MESSENGER and the scheduled Earth-based tracking antenna will provide the first confirmation that the spacecraft has impacted the surface. After about 30 minutes following the predicted Mercury impact time, the team plans to announce whether MESSENGER's orbital mission has come to an end.
The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft's seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation
are unraveling the history and evolution of the Solar System's innermost planet. In the mission's more than four years of orbital operations, MESSENGER has acquired over 270,000 images and extensive other data sets. View highlights of the mission in this image highlights collection
. MESSENGER's highly successful orbital mission is about to come to an end, as the spacecraft runs out of propellant and the force of solar gravity causes it to impact the surface of Mercury today, April 30, 2015.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
For information regarding the use of MESSENGER images, see the image use policy.