A NASA Discovery mission to conduct the first orbital study
of the innermost planet
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Mercury Flyby 2


On October 6, 2008, the MESSENGER spacecraft passed a mere 200 kilometers (124 miles) above Mercury's surface for the mission's second flyby of its target planet. The flyby's primary purpose was to use Mercury for a gravity assist, a crucial encounter needed to enable MESSENGER, in 2011, to become the first spacecraft ever to enter into an orbit around Mercury. Though the gravity assist was the top priority for the flyby, MESSENGER's second flyby of Mercury also provided an opportunity to make significant and exciting science observations and measurements.

Visualization Tool
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Use this Mercury Flyby 2 Visualization Tool to see simulated views of the planned instrument observations that occurred during the flyby.

Click here to see actual images returned by MESSENGER next to simulated views planned before the flyby.

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View a timeline of the many spacecraft and instrument activities planned for the flyby in either a graphical or tabular format.


October 1, 2008, 1 pm EDT:
NASA Media Telecon Previewing the Flyby

October 6, 2008, 4:40:22 am EDT:
MESSENGER's Closest Approach to Mercury

October 8, 2008, 4-5 pm EDT:
Public Talk at APL: "Mercury: from Mariner 10 to MESSENGER" by Prof. Mark S. Robinson, School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University
(RSVP page / PDF flyer)

October 29, 2008, 1 pm EDT:
NASA Science Update with Flyby Results

Images from the Flyby
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View images and movies acquired by the MESSENGER spacecraft during its flyby of Mercury. Check back often to see the latest releases as they become available!

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Watch an animation (17.8 MB or 98.3 MB) of MESSENGER's second flyby of Mercury that shows the instrument observations that occurred during the encounter. (Version without labels: 95 MB)


Closest Approach Trajectory Highlights

See three views of the spacecraft trajectory near closest approach to the planet, as well as summary details of the spacecraft’s location when closest to the planet and the gravity-assist boost imparted to the spacecraft via the flyby.

First Mercury flyby closest approach details:

Date and time: October 6, 2008, 8:40:22 UTC
Spacecraft distance to planet center: 2638.9 km
Altitude: 199.5 km
Sub-spacecraft surface latitude, longitude: 3.419° S, 228.945° E
Spacecraft velocity with respect to planet center: 6.616 km/s
Effective gravity-assist velocity change from flyby: 2.453 km/s

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