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MESSENGER Mission News
March 5, 2014

MESSENGER Team Receives Space Pioneer Award for Science and Engineering
The National Space Society has selected NASA's MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) mission as the 2014 recipient of the Space Pioneer Award in the Science and Engineering category. "With this award, NSS recognizes both the importance of the first dedicated probe to orbit Mercury and the significance of the scientific results already released," the organization said in announcing the award.

The annual Space Pioneer awards recognize individuals and teams whose accomplishments have helped to open the space frontier. The awards are divided into 13 categories with the intent of recognizing those who have made significant contributions in different fields of endeavor to "develop a space faring civilization that will establish communities beyond the Earth." Because NSS typically selects three Space Pioneer award recipients each year, not every category is awarded.

"The historic achievements of the MESSENGER Team (after construction and launch of the spacecraft) include successfully placing the spacecraft accurately into its intended orbit around Mercury on March 18, 2011, after a series of six critical flybys of the Earth, Venus, and Mercury itself," NSS said. "Besides the critical contribution of accurately mapping Mercury's surface, the science results have confirmed the presence of water ice and organic chemicals at the poles, and the fact that Mercury's magnetic field is offset to the north substantially from its equator."

"The MESSENGER team is deeply honored to receive this recognition from the National Space Society," said MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon of Columbia University. "Our engineers have met the profound challenges of inserting a spacecraft into orbit about Mercury and operating for years in the harsh environment of the inner solar system. And that vantage has permitted MESSENGER to make a series of discoveries that are changing our views on how the inner planets formed and evolved. All of us on the MESSENGER team count ourselves as extraordinarily fortunate to have been along for the exhilarating ride."

The award will be presented at the International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles, which runs from May 14-18, 2014.

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 was 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. MESSENGER's first extended mission began on March 18, 2012, and ended one year later. MESSENGER is now in a second extended mission, which is scheduled to conclude in March 2015. Dr. Sean C. Solomon, the Director of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, 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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