MESSENGER Mission News
June 7, 2007

MESSENGER Makes Its Debut in the Smithsonian Museum

As part of the Venus 2 flyby activities this week, a 1:5 scale model of the MESSENGER spacecraft built by carpenters at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., was hung in the Mercury exhibit in the Exploring the Planets Gallery of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, D.C.

Artisans Ron Prietz, Sr., Bill Kulp, and Bob Harter, from APL's Technical Services Department-along with supervisor Ted Hartka-were there to see their handiwork displayed. Several members of the MESSENGER science and engineering teams were also in attendance, including Principal Investigator Sean Solomon, from the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and Project Scientist Ralph McNutt, Mission Operations Manager Andy Calloway, and Missions Systems Engineer Eric Finnegan, all from APL.

NASM's Exploring the Planets Gallery was opened in 1979 to highlight the history and achievements of planetary exploration, both by Earth-based observations and by spacecraft. This upgrade to the Mercury exhibit is part of MESSENGER's Education and Public Outreach effort and is being led by Tom Watters, a senior scientist at NASM and a MESSENGER Participating Scientist. MESSENGER Co-Investigator Mark Robinson, at Arizona State University, made available for the exhibit scores of Mercury photographs from Mariner 10.

"This is a work in progress, but especially if you have not visited the museum for a while, it is worth a stop if you are in Washington," says McNutt. "As the MESSENGER mission progresses, the exhibit will be upgraded to reflect the mission and new Mercury results; so watch this space."

Pictures from the event are available in MESSENGER's photo gallery at http://messenger/the_mission/pictures/pictures.html. Additional information about NASM's Gallery is online at

MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is a NASA-sponsored scientific investigation of the planet Mercury and the first space mission designed to orbit the planet closest to the Sun. The MESSENGER spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and after flybys of Earth, Venus, and Mercury will start a yearlong study of its target planet in March 2011. Dr. Sean C. Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, leads the mission as principal investigator. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the MESSENGER spacecraft and manages this Discovery-class mission for NASA.