A NASA Discovery mission to conduct the first orbital study
of the innermost planet
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Early Science from Mercury Orbit


On March 17, 2011 (March 18, 2011, UTC), MESSENGER became the first spacecraft ever to orbit Mercury. The first few days after orbit insertion were focused on ensuring that the spacecraft systems were working well in the harsh thermal environment of orbit; this interval is known as the orbital commissioning phase. On March 24, 2011, the instruments were turned on and checked out, and on April 4, 2011, the science phase of the mission began and the first orbital science data from Mercury were returned. The probe continued to orbit the planet once every 11.6-12 hours throughout its primary mission. March 18, 2012, marked the beginning of a 1-year extended orbital mission. On April 16, 2012, and April 20, 2012, two maneuvers were performed that resulted in a reduced orbit period of 8 hours.  The spacecraft will continue to orbit Mercury once every 8 hours for the duration of the extended mission. For additional information, read Mercury Orbit Insertion and Station Keeping.

Working at Mercury

Visit this page to read about how MESSENGER is accomplishing the mission's science objectives.

Images and Data from Mercury
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Check here to see the latest images acquired by the MESSENGER spacecraft as it orbits Mercury.


June 16, 2011, 1 pm
NASA News Conference: Early Science from Mercury Orbit

May 4, 2011
United States Postal Service Releases MESSENGER Stamp

March 30, 2011, 2 pm EDT
NASA Media Telecon: MESSENGER'S First Orbital Images of Mercury

View Webcast Recording
Download the webcast of the event (originally broadcast Thursday, March 17, 2011, 7:55 p.m. EDT)!
Windows Media Video (680 MB) | Quicktime Video (980 MB)

! NOTE: Given the large file size of the webcast, it may take extra time to download. Please be patient.

March 17, 2011, 8:45 pm EDT (March 18, 2011, 12:45 am UTC):
MESSENGER Mercury Orbit Insertion

March 17, 2011, 7:30 pm EDT
MESSENGER Mercury Public Event

March 15, 2011, 1 pm EDT:
NASA Media Telecon Preview of the Mercury Orbit Insertion

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Watch this animation to view the Mercury orbit insertion maneuver and the spacecraft’s first orbit around the planet.

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This animation shows the expected spacecraft orientation, thruster activity, and location relative to Mercury during the Mercury orbit insertion maneuver.

MESSENGER in the News

View news about the MESSENGER mission gathered from newspapers, journals, and other media world-wide.


Fact Sheet (PDF)

“Secrets,” a Poem, by Stuart Atkinson

MESSENGER Mercury Orbit Insertion Press Kit (PDF)

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