A NASA Discovery mission to conduct the first orbital study
of the innermost planet
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Frequently Asked Questions

Have a question about MESSENGER? Here you can view answers to general questions about Mercury and the spacecraft. Or browse answers to questions submitted by the public. You can also send your own question to the MESSENGER team for a response!

Basic information about MESSENGER
  1. What is MESSENGER?
  2. What are MESSENGER's scientific goals?
  3. Who is on the MESSENGER Team?
  4. What are the basic components of the MESSENGER spacecraft?
  5. What are MESSENGER's scientific instruments?
  6. What are other key characteristics of the spacecraft?
  7. What type of propulsion system does MESSENGER use? How much propellant does it carry?
  8. How do mission controllers communicate with the spacecraft?
  9. How would the team know if MESSENGER has a problem during flight?
  10. Can the team fix the spacecraft from Earth?
  11. How is the spacecraft powered?
  12. Have other spacecraft visited Mercury?
  13. Does MESSENGER incorporate any new developments that make it unique from Mariner 10 or other spacecraft?
  14. What other missions are scheduled to study Mercury?
  15. How will the MESSENGER and BepiColombo missions complement each other?
  16. What is the NASA Discovery Program?
  17. What are other Discovery Program missions?

 
Technological challenges of the mission, including the spacecraft's trajectory and orbit
  1. When, and from where, did MESSENGER launch?
  2. How long will it take MESSENGER to get to Mercury?
  3. What is a flyby - and why do it?
  4. Will MESSENGER return any science during its flybys of Venus and Mercury?
  5. Why take such a long and complex route to Mercury?
  6. What is a gravity assist?
  7. Why have there been so few missions to Mercury?
  8. How close to Mercury will MESSENGER come during orbit?
  9. How long will MESSENGER take to gather data on Mercury's entire surface?
  10. Why isn't MESSENGER a manned mission?
  11. Will MESSENGER return to Earth?
  12. How far -- and how fast -- will MESSENGER travel?
General information about Mercury
  1. What are some differences between Mercury and Earth?
  2. How did Mercury get its name?
  3. When was Mercury discovered?
  4. Is there really ice on Mercury?
  5. Why explore Mercury?
  6. What is the temperature on Mercury?
  7. How will MESSENGER deal with the intense heat at Mercury?
  8. Is Mercury the hottest planet in our solar system?
  9. How big is Mercury?
  10. Mercury looks a lot like Earth's moon. Are they very similar?
  11. What if life was found on Mercury?
  12. Why does the sky on Mercury look black?
 
Questions the mission hopes to answer
  1. What are MESSENGER's scientific goals?
  2. How much data will MESSENGER send back?
  3. Why has it taken three decades to return to Mercury?
  4. Why can't we learn what we need to know about Mercury using Earth-based telescopes, or maybe the Hubble Space Telescope?
  5. Until MESSENGER arrives at Mercury, where can I get pictures of the planet?
  6. How will MESSENGER shed light on the evolution of the Solar System?
  7. What will MESSENGER teach us about Earth?

 


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