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MESSENGER News Archive

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  • MESSENGER Approaches Three Billion Miles, Enters Fourth Solar Conjunction (December 23, 2008)
    On December 26, the MESSENGER spacecraft will have traveled three billion miles since its launch, marking somewhat more than 60 percent of the probe’s journey toward its destination to be inserted into orbit about Mercury. [more]

  • MESSENGER Team to Present New Mercury Science Results at AGU Fall Meeting (December 12, 2008)
    Members of the MESSENGER science team will present a range of new findings from the spacecraft’s studies of the planet Mercury during the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting next week in San Francisco. [more]

  • MESSENGER Completes Two-Part Maneuver; Poised for Third Mercury Encounter (December 8, 2008)
    MESSENGER completed the second part of a two-part deep-space maneuver today, providing the remaining 10% velocity change needed to place the probe on course to fly by Mercury for the third time in September 2009. [more]

  • Deep-Space Maneuver Positions MESSENGER for Third Mercury Encounter (December 4, 2008)
    The Mercury-bound spacecraft MESSENGER completed the first part of a two-part deep-space maneuver today, providing the expected 90% of the velocity change needed to place the spacecraft on course to fly by Mercury for the third time in September 2009. A 4.5-minute firing of its bi-propellant engine increased the probe’s speed relative to the Sun by 219 meters per second (489 miles per hour) to a speed of about 30.994 kilometers per second (69,333 miles per hour). [more]

  • Second Group of Mercury Craters Named (November 26, 2008)
    The International Astronomical Union (IAU) recently approved a proposal from the MESSENGER Science Team to name 15 craters on Mercury. All of the newly named craters were imaged during the mission’s first flyby of the solar system’s innermost planet in January 2008. [more]

  • MESSENGER Reveals More "Hidden" Territory on Mercury (October 29, 2008)
    Gliding over the battered surface of Mercury for the second time this year, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft has revealed even more previously unseen real estate on the innermost planet, sending home hundreds of photos and measurements of its surface, atmosphere, and magnetic field. [more]

  • MESSENGER Gains Speed (October 15, 2008)
    Shortly after 4 a.m. this morning, MESSENGER reached its greatest speed relative to the Sun. The spacecraft, nearly 70% closer to the Sun than Earth, was traveling nearly 140,880 miles per hour (62.979 kilometers per second) relative to the Sun. At this speed MESSENGER would traverse the distance from Earth to Earth’s Moon in only 1.7 hours! [more]

  • MESSENGER Sets Record for Accuracy of Planetary Flyby (October 8, 2008)
    By using solar sailing – rotating the spacecraft and tilting its solar panels to use the very small pressure from sunlight to alter the spacecraft’s trajectory – MESSENGER navigators have achieved a new record for the smallest miss distance between the intended and actual closest approach distance during a flyby of a planet other than Earth. [more]

  • MESSENGER Reveals Mercury as Never Seen Before (October 7, 2008)
    When Mariner 10 flew past Mercury three times in 1974 and 1975, the probe imaged less than half the planet. In January, during MESSENGER’s first flyby, its cameras returned images of about 20 percent of the planet’s surface missed by Mariner 10. Yesterday, at 4:40 am EDT, MESSENGER successfully completed its second flyby of Mercury, and its cameras captured more than 1,200 high-resolution and color images of the planet – unveiling another 30 percent of Mercury’s surface that had never before been seen by spacecraft. [more]

  • MESSENGER Flyby of Mercury (October 6, 2008)
    At a little after 4:40 a.m. EDT, MESSENGER skimmed 200 kilometers (124 miles) above the surface of Mercury in the second of three flybys of the planet. Initial indications from the radio signals indicate that the spacecraft continues to operate nominally. The spacecraft is now collecting images and other scientific measurements from the planet as it departs Mercury from the illuminated side, filling in the details of much of Mercury’s surface not previously viewed by spacecraft. [more]

  • MESSENGER Instruments Take Aim (October 5, 2008)
    MESSENGER’s engineering and operations teams convened at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., this afternoon to confirm the health and readiness of the spacecraft. “All spacecraft sub-systems and instruments reported nominal operations indicating that MESSENGER is ready for its second encounter with Mercury,” said MESSENGER Systems Engineer Eric Finnegan of APL. [more]

  • Closing in on Mercury (October 4, 2008)
    If you look at our “Where Is MESSENGER?” page, which displays the spacecraft's trajectory status, you'll see that we're right on Mercury's doorstep. MESSENGER's mission design and navigation teams met today at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., to discuss the spacecraft's current trajectory to determine if a last-minute trajectory-correction maneuver would be needed. [more]

  • MESSENGER Beams Back First Approach Images of Mercury (October 3, 2008)
    MESSENGER mission operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., have received the first optical navigation images from the spacecraft. “We will be taking seven additional sets over the next three days as the spacecraft approaches the planet,” said APL’s Eric Finnegan, the Mission Systems Engineer. [more]

  • MESSENGER Returns to Mercury (October 1, 2008)
    On October 6, for the second time in less than a year, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft will swoop just 200 kilometers (125 miles) above the cratered surface of Mercury, snapping hundreds of pictures and collecting a variety of other data from the planet as it gains a critical gravity assist that keeps the probe on track to become the first spacecraft ever to orbit the innermost planet beginning in March 2011. [more]

  • MLA Ready to Range to Mercury's Surface (September 29, 2008)
    One week from today, the MESSENGER spacecraft will fly by Mercury for the second time this year. As part of the final preparations for this encounter, the Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA) has been powered on after having been off since shortly after the first flyby at the beginning of the year. The entire MESSENGER science payload is now powered and configured to collect data during next week’s encounter. [more]

  • MESSENGER's Gamma-Ray Spectrometer Gears up for Mercury Flyby (September 22, 2008)
    Two weeks from today, the MESSENGER spacecraft will fly by Mercury for the second time. As part of the final preparations for this encounter, the Gamma-Ray Spectrometer (GRS) was placed in an “anneal mode” to prepare its detector for optimal performance during the flyby. [more]

  • MESSENGER Finalizes Plans for Its Second Look at Mercury (September 12, 2008)
    It is now only slightly more than three weeks before the MESSENGER spacecraft flies by Mercury for the second time. At 4:40 a.m. ET on October 6, the craft will speed by the planet, passing within 125 miles (200 kilometers) and gaining a gravity assist that will tighten its orbit and keep it on its course to pass the planet one last time next year before becoming the first spacecraft ever to orbit Mercury, beginning in 2011. [more]

  • MESSENGER Sails on Sun's Fire for Second Flyby of Mercury (September 5, 2008)
    On September 4, the MESSENGER team announced that it would not need to implement a scheduled maneuver to adjust the probe’s trajectory. This is the fourth time this year that such a maneuver has been called off. The reason? A recently implemented navigational technique that makes use of solar-radiation pressure (SRP) to guide the probe has been extremely successful at maintaining MESSENGER on a trajectory that will carry it over the cratered surface of Mercury for a second time on October 6. [more]

  • Sharing the Wealth: MESSENGER Team Delivers Mercury Flyby 1 Data to Planetary Data System (August 4, 2008)
    Data from MESSENGER’s first flyby of Mercury have been released to the public by the Planetary Data System (PDS), an organization that archives and distributes all of NASA’s planetary mission data. [more]

  • MESSENGER Settles Old Debates and Makes New Discoveries at Mercury (July 3, 2008)
    Scientists have argued about the origins of Mercury’s smooth plains and the source of its magnetic field for over 30 years. Now, analyses of data from the January 2008 flyby of the planet by the MESSENGER spacecraft have shown that volcanoes were involved in plains formation and suggest that its magnetic field is actively produced in the planet’s core and is not a frozen relic. Scientists additionally took their first look at the chemical composition the planet’s surface material. The tiny craft probed the composition of Mercury’s thin atmosphere, sampled charged particles (ions) near the planet, and demonstrated new links between both sets of observations and materials on Mercury’s surface. The results are reported in a series of 11 papers published in a special section of the July 4 issue of Science magazine. [more]

  • NASA to Reveal New Discoveries from Mercury (July 2, 2008)
    NASA will host a media teleconference Thursday, July 3, at 2 p.m. EDT, to discuss analysis of data from the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft's flyby of Mercury earlier this year. [more]

  • The Mastermind behind MESSENGER's Trajectory Honored for Efforts (May 30, 2008)
    Jim McAdams, the MESSENGER mission design lead engineer, was named the 2008 Engineer of the Year by the Baltimore Section, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Each spring, this chapter of AIAA honors those in the aerospace community who have made significant contributions during the previous year. [more]

  • Mercury Features Receive New Names (April 28, 2008)
    The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has approved new names for features on Mercury and agreed on a new theme for fossae on the planet. These newly christened features were discovered from images taken by the MESSENGER spacecraft during its first flyby of Mercury in January. [more]

  • Critical Deep-Space Maneuver Targets MESSENGER for Its Second Mercury Encounter (March 19, 2008)
    The MESSENGER spacecraft delivered a critical deep-space maneuver today – 64 million miles (103 million kilometers) from Earth – successfully firing its large bi-propellant engine to change the probe’s trajectory and target it for its second flyby of Mercury on October 6, 2008. This was the first trajectory-correction maneuver (TCM) to test the continuous slow rotation of the spacecraft throughout the burn, essential for the March 18, 2011, Mercury orbit-insertion (MOI) maneuver. [more]

  • MESSENGER Scientists to Discuss Findings From Mercury Flyby (March 7, 2008)
    During its January flyby of Mercury, the MESSENGER spacecraft observed swaths of the innermost planet never before seen up close. Members of the MESSENGER mission team will present findings from that historic encounter and discuss Mercury science during the 39th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference March 10-14 at the South Shore Harbour Resort and Conference Center in League City, Texas. [more]

  • Making a Mosaic (March 5, 2008)
    During MESSENGER’s flyby of Mercury on January 14, 2008, the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) acquired images to create eight different mosaics. Shown here is an image context sheet with small thumbnail versions of the MDIS Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) images that were captured as the spacecraft approached the planet and used to create a high-resolution mosaic of Mercury. [more]

  • Craters in Caloris (February 27, 2008)
    As MESSENGER sped by Mercury on January 14, 2008, the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) captured this image, which includes the edge of the planet against the blackness of space. Much of the foreground shows a portion of Caloris basin, one of the largest impact basins in the solar system. [more]

  • Craters with Dark Halos on Mercury (February 21, 2008)
    As MESSENGER flew by Mercury on January 14, 2008, the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) captured this view. Two of the larger craters in this image appear to have darkened crater rims and partial “halos” of dark material immediately surrounding the craters. Both craters appear to have nearly complete rims and interior terraced walls, suggesting that they formed more recently than the other nearby shallower craters of similar size. [more]

  • One Month Ago . . . (February 14, 2008)
    MESSENGER’s Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) captured this image during the flyby one month ago. The Sun is illuminating this region at a low angle, accentuating the modest ridges and other low topography on these nearly flat plains. Low ridges trend from the top-center of the image to the left edge (white arrows). The ghostly remains of craters are visible, filled to their rims by what may have been volcanic lavas (red arrows). [more]

  • MESSENGER Team Begins Planning for Second Mercury Encounter (February 6, 2008)
    Little more than three weeks after MESSENGER’s first historic flyby of Mercury, the team this week began mapping out its trajectory and observation plans for the probe’s second pass of the planet this fall. On October 6, 2008, at 4:39 a.m. EST, the spacecraft will once again fly 200 kilometers (124 miles) above the surface of the planet. [more]

  • Surprises Stream back from Mercury's MESSENGER (January 30, 2008)
    After a journey of more than 2.2 billion miles and three and a half years, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft made its first flyby of Mercury just after 2 PM Eastern Standard Time on January 14, 2008. All seven scientific instruments worked flawlessly, producing a stream of surprises that is amazing and delighting the science team. The 1,213 mages conclusively show that the planet is a lot less like the Moon than many previously thought, with features unique to this innermost world. The puzzling magnetosphere appears to be very different from what Mariner 10 discovered and first sampled almost 34 years ago. [more]

  • MESSENGER's Departing Shots (January 29, 2008)
    After MESSENGER completed its successful flyby of Mercury, the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC), part of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS), took images of the receding planet. Beginning on January 14, 2008, about 100 minutes after MESSENGER’s closest pass by the surface of Mercury, until January 15, 2008, about 19 hours later, the NAC acquired one image every four minutes. In all, 288 images were snapped during this sequence; shown here are just 12 of those departing shots. [more]

  • A Closer Look at the Previously Unseen Side of Mercury (January 28, 2008)
    Two weeks ago, on January 14, 2008, MESSENGER became the first spacecraft to see the side of Mercury shown in this image. The first image transmitted back to Earth following the flyby of Mercury, and then released to the web within hours, shows the historic first look at the previously unseen side. This image, taken by the Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS), shows a closer view of much of that territory. [more]

  • Mercury's Long Cliffs (January 27, 2008)
    This frame, taken by the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS), shows a region of Mercury's surface previously unseen by spacecraft and a large scarp crossing vertically through the scene, on the far right of the image. This scarp is the northern continuation of the one seen in the NAC image released on January 16. [more]

  • MESSENGER Looks to the North (January 26, 2008)
    As MESSENGER sped by Mercury on January 14, 2008, the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) captured this shot looking toward Mercury's north pole. [more]

  • MESSENGER’s Different Views (January 25, 2008)
    During MESSENGER’s flyby of Mercury on January 14, 2008, part of the planned sequence of observations included taking images of the same portion of Mercury’s surface from five different viewing angles. The first view from this sequence was taken just after MESSENGER made its closest approach to Mercury, from a low viewing angle; an image of the first view was released on January 19. The image released here, acquired with the Wide Angle Camera (WAC) on the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS), was snapped 13 minutes after MESSENGER’s closest approach with Mercury. [more]

  • Counting Mercury's Craters (January 24, 2008)
    MESSENGER team members have been identifying and measuring the impact craters on portions of Mercury that had not been previously seen by spacecraft. By counting craters on different areas of the planet’s surface, a relative geologic history of the planet can be constructed, indicating which surfaces formed first and which formed later. In this image, 763 craters have been identified and measured (shown in green) along with 189 hills (shown in yellow). [more]

  • MESSENGER Dances by Matisse (January 23, 2008)
    As MESSENGER approached Mercury on January 14, 2008, the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) snapped this image of the crater Matisse. [more]

  • Mercury in Color! (January 22, 2008)
    This visible-infrared image shows an incoming view of Mercury, about 80 minutes before MESSENGER's closest pass of the planet on January 14, 2008, from a distance of about 27,000 kilometers (17,000 miles). [more]

  • Looking Toward the South Pole of Mercury (January 21, 2008)
    Today the MESSENGER team released this image , which shows a side of Mercury not previously seen by a spacecraft, with a view looking toward the planet's south pole. [more]

  • Latest MESSENGER Images Show Fascinating Views of Mercury's Surface (January 20, 2008)
    As it departed Mercury on January 14, 2008, MESSENGER's Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) on the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) acquired this view of Mercury’s surface illuminated obliquely from the right by the Sun, and this frame, which records a complex history of geological evolution. [more]

  • New Images Reveal Views after Closest Approach, First Mercury Laser Altimeter Results (January 19, 2008)
    Today the MESSENGER team released two new images. One, taken nine minutes after the spacecraft passed 200 kilometers (124 miles) above the surface of Mercury, shows the planet's surface as seen from a low viewing angle, looking over the surface and off the limb of the planet on the right side of the image. The second figure shows the distance, or range, from the spacecraft to the surface of Mercury as measured by Mercury Laser Altimeter during the flyby of Mercury. [more]

  • MESSENGER's Mercury Flyby Science Data Now Safely on Earth (January 18, 2008)
    A day after its successful flyby of Mercury, the MESSENGER spacecraft turned toward Earth on Tuesday and began downloading the 500 megabytes of data that had been stored on the solid-state recorder during the encounter. All of those data, including 1,213 images from the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) cameras, have now been received by the Science Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. [more]

  • New Images Shed Light on Mercury's Geological History, Surface Textures (January 17, 2008)
    Shortly following MESSENGER’s closest approach to Mercury on January 14, 2008, the spacecraft’s Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) on the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) instrument acquired this image as part of a mosaic that covers much of the sunlit portion of the hemisphere not viewed by Mariner 10. It provides insight into the relative timing of processes that have acted on Mercury's surface in the past. This image is one of those mosaic frames and was acquired on January 14, 2008, 18:10 UTC, when the spacecraft was about 18,000 kilometers (11,000 miles) from the surface of Mercury, about 55 minutes before MESSENGER’s closest approach to the planet. It shows a variety of surface textures. [more]

  • Two New Images from MESSENGER's First Flyby of Mercury (January 16, 2008)
    Just 21 minutes after MESSENGER’s closest approach to Mercury on January 14, 2008, the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) took this picture showing a variety of intriguing surface features, including craters as small as about 300 meters (about 300 yards) across. This image, taken 37 minutes after MESSENGER's closest approach to the planet, shows a previously unseen crater with distinctive bright rays of ejected material extending radially outward from the crater's center. [more]

  • MESSENGER Reveals Mercury in New Detail (January 16, 2008)
    As MESSENGER approached Mercury on January 14, 2008, the spacecraft’s Narrow-Angle Camera on the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) instrument captured this view of the planet’s rugged, cratered landscape illuminated obliquely by the Sun. [more]

  • MESSENGER's First Look at Mercury's Previously Unseen Side (January 15, 2008)
    When Mariner 10 flew past Mercury three times in 1974 and 1975, the same hemisphere was in sunlight during each encounter. As a consequence, Mariner 10 was able to image less than half the planet. Planetary scientists have wondered for more than 30 years about what spacecraft images might reveal about the hemisphere of Mercury that Mariner 10 never viewed. [more]

  • Mercury Flyby Observations Are on the Way! (January 15, 2008)
    At 16:30 UTC (11:30 a.m. EST) today, MESSENGER flight controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., received the first telemetry from the spacecraft following the probe’s closest approach to Mercury yesterday. All spacecraft subsystems and instruments are operating normally, and telemetry data indicate that the command sequence during the flyby executed as expected. [more]

  • MESSENGER Flyby of Mercury (January 14, 2008)
    Today, at 19:04:39 UTC (2:04:39 pm EST), MESSENGER will fly 200 kilometers (124 miles) above Mercury’s surface. As the spacecraft continues to speed toward the planet, the Narrow Angle Camera, part of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) instrument, acquired this crescent view of Mercury. [more]

  • Today MESSENGER Flies by Mercury! (January 14, 2008)
    Today, at 19:04:39 UTC (2:04:39 pm EST), MESSENGER will fly 200 kilometers (124 miles) above Mercury’s surface. As the spacecraft continues to speed toward the planet, the Narrow Angle Camera, part of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) instrument, acquired this crescent view of Mercury. [more]

  • MESSENGER Instruments Take Aim (January 13, 2008)
    MESSENGER’s engineering and operations teams convened at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., early this morning to confirm the health and readiness of the spacecraft. [more]

  • The Calm before Close Approach (January 12, 2008)
    If you look at our "Where Is MESSENGER?" page, which displays the spacecraft's trajectory status, you'll see we're right on Mercury's doorstep. MESSENGER's mission design and navigation teams at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., met yesterday to discuss the spacecraft's current trajectory to determine if a last-minute trajectory-correction maneuver would be needed. [more]

  • Three Days to Mercury! (January 11, 2008)
    The countdown to the first flyby of Mercury by the MESSENGER spacecraft has begun. Sunday morning, MESSENGER will start recording the evidence of this historic event. At 8 a.m. EST on January 13 – 30 hours before the closest approach to Mercury – the spacecraft will turn its main antennas away from Earth and automatically begin executing the 5,000 on-board stored commands. [more]

  • MESSENGER Set for Historic Mercury Flyby (January 10, 2008)
    NASA will return to Mercury for the first time in almost 33 years on January 14, 2008, when the MESSENGER spacecraft makes its first flyby of the Sun’s closest neighbor, capturing images of large portions of the planet never before seen. [more]

  • MESSENGER Team Receives First Optical Navigation Images (January 9, 2008)
    MESSENGER mission operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., have received the first eight optical navigation images from the spacecraft. [more]

  • Six Days from Mercury and Counting! (January 8, 2008)
    The MESSENGER spacecraft continues to approach Mercury and will be less than 3 million kilometers (1.9 million miles) away from the planet at the end of today. In just six days – on January 14, 2008, at 2:04 p.m. EST – the probe will pass a mere 200 kilometers (124 miles) above Mercury’s surface. Extensive scientific observations are planned during this historic flyby, the first spacecraft flyby of Mercury in more than 30 years. [more]

  • MESSENGER Only One Week from Mercury (January 7, 2008)
    MESSENGER’s mid-December trajectory correction maneuver (TCM-19) went so well that the mission design and navigation teams have decided that a TCM scheduled for January 10 will not be needed. [more]



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