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MESSENGER Mission News
November 17, 2009

Time Magazine Names MESSENGER One of the Best Inventions of 2009
The MESSENGER spacecraft has been named one of Time magazine’s best 50 inventions of 2009. The NASA probe, built by the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., came in at number 11. Here is what the editors had to say in the November 23 issue of the magazine:

“If the solar system has a flame-roasted planet, it's Mercury, where the sun pushes surface temperatures to 800°F (426°C). That brutal environment is one reason no NASA probe has visited Mercury since 1975. But Messenger — the space agency's new Mercury ship — can take the heat. Having just completed a flyby a mere 141 miles (228 km) above the planet's surface, it's preparing to enter Mercury's orbit in 2011. The probe will survey parts of the world never before seen — and will do so in comfort. Covered in an insulating ceramic skin, it will endure temperatures of 700°F (370°C) on its exterior; inside, it will operate at a room-temperature 70°F (20°C).”

“MESSENGER has certainly had to face a number of novel technical challenges for a deep-space mission, and it’s nice to see our engineering team recognized in this manner by the editors and writers of Time,” offers MESSENGER principal investigator Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. “Our entire team is looking forward to the time, 16 months from now, when our ‘invention’ will be the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.”

The full list of Time’s “Best Inventions,” is available online at

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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