A NASA Discovery mission to conduct the first orbital study
of the innermost planet
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MESSENGER Mission News
April 26, 2011

Profiling Polar Craters with the Mercury Laser Altimeter
MESSENGER’s Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA) will measure the topography or surface relief of the northern hemisphere of Mercury. That data will be used to create topographic maps, which will help characterize the geologic history of the planet. One of the most important tasks for MLA is to measure the depths of craters that are near Mercury’s north pole. In the latest "Science Highlights from Mercury’s Orbit," MESSENGER’s Geophysics discipline group explains why.

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 entered orbit about Mercury on March 17, 2011 (March 18, 2011 UTC), to begin a yearlong study of its target planet. 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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