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MESSENGER Mission News
September 29, 2009

MESSENGER Flyby of Mercury
Shortly before 5:55 p.m. EDT, MESSENGER skimmed 228 kilometers (141 miles) above the surface of Mercury in its third and final flyby of the planet. Radio signals received after the spacecraft emerged from behind the planet indicate that the spacecraft is operating nominally. Its instruments are now collecting images and other scientific measurements from the planet as it departs Mercury.

Tonight at 9:34 p.m., the spacecraft will turn its high-gain antenna back toward Earth to start down linking real-time telemetry. Downlink of the data stored onboard will start two hours later. The first images from the flyby will be released around 10:00 a.m. on September 30, 2009. Additional information and features from this encounter will be available online at http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/mer_flyby3.html. Be sure to check back frequently to see the latest released images and science results!

Highlights from Three Mercury Flybys

On Thursday, October 1, 2009, three MESSENGER team members – Principal Investigator Sean Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Project Manager Peter Bedini, of APL, and Co-Investigator Louise Prockter, of APL – will talk about what we’ve learned about Mercury from MESSENGER’s encounters with the planet, and release new pictures from the spacecraft’s third flyby of Mercury. The event, to be held at the Kossiakoff Center on the campus of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., will begin at 5 p.m.

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.

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