A NASA Discovery mission to conduct the first orbital study
of the innermost planet
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MESSENGER Telecon Multimedia Page

Presenter #1
Marilyn Lindstrom, MESSENGER program scientist
NASA Headquarters, Washington

Presenter #2
Eric Finnegan, MESSENGER mission systems engineer
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, MD

Image 2.1

Click on image to view animation.
This animation depicts the demanding trajectory of the MESSENGER spacecraft during the cruise phase of the mission, from launch on August 3, 2004, through Mercury Orbit Insertion on March 18, 2011. Shown here is a view of the inner planets’ motions looking down from the Ecliptic North Pole. During MESSENGER’s 6 year, 7 month journey, it will fly by three planets: once by Earth at an altitude of approximately 2,300 kilometers (1,429 miles); twice by Venus at an altitude of approximately 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) and 330 kilometers (205 miles); and then three times by Mercury at an altitude of approximately 200 kilometers (124 miles). In addition to these gravity assist opportunities – critical to changing the velocity of the spacecraft – MESSENGER will execute five deep space maneuvers using the on-board bi-propellant propulsion system, firing the main engine to further aid in changing the velocity of the spacecraft on its approach for Mercury orbit capture. The cruise phase of the mission concludes with the largest maneuver sequence for the mission, placing the spacecraft in an elliptical orbit around Mercury, passing within 200 kilometers (124 miles) of the surface every 12 hours.

Image 2.2
MESSENGER Timeline M1 V0
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This is a timeline of the core instrument observing sequence for the first Mercury encounter. Pictured here is the overall on-board activities of the spacecraft starting 30 hours before and continuing through 22 hours after the closest approach point with the planet. Two additional views zoom into the timeline for three hours on either side of the closest approach and zoom further for the period of 30 minutes around the closest approach. This illustrates the comprehensive set of scientific measurements MESSENGER will capture from Mercury. In all views the size of the planet relative to the distance covered by the time period is displayed. The spacecraft will be traveling from right to left on this timeline, approaching the planet from the night side and departing from the day side. The smooth surface of the planet represents the portions of the surface not imaged by Mariner 10.

Image 2.3
MESSENGER Timeline M1 V0
Click on image to view animation.
This animation shows Mercury as MESSENGER flies by the planet for the first time during the mission. The maneuvers shown for the spacecraft correspond to the programmed pointing and data collection sequences planned for the flyby. Large rectangular fields of view indicate imaging with the Wide Angle Camera of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS); smaller fields of view correspond to images made with the Narrow Angle Camera of the same instrument. Other remote-sensing instrument footprints are shown as well, with labels describing the measurements made. The animation is compressed by about 90:1 (1 second of animation is about 90 seconds of real time). The animation begins at January 14, 2008, when MESSENGER is about three hours before closest approach with the planet, corresponding to the zoom views of the timeline above.

Image 2.4
MESSENGER Timeline M1 V0MESSENGER Timeline M1 V0
Click on each image to view larger version.
These sets of images present views of the MESSENGER spacecraft, in the deployed state; from the front and back (left image) and from the bottom (right image). The most recognizable feature of the spacecraft, the Sun shade, is used to shield the spacecraft from solar radiation as the cruise trajectory and Mercury orbital operations place the spacecraft within 0.3AU of the sun. The locations for all seven instrument packages, including their individual instrument sensors are shown. Note the thermal blanket material that covers and insulates the spacecraft from cold space has been removed for clarity and viewing of the individual sensors.
Presenter #3
Sean Solomon, MESSENGER principal investigator
The Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington

Image 3.1

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Image 3.2

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Image 3.3

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Image 3.4

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Image 3.5

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Image 3.6

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Presenter #4
Faith Vilas, MESSENGER participating scientist and director
MMT Observatory at Mt. Hopkins, Ariz.

Image 4.1
What do we learn about Mercury with MESSENGER?

Image 4.2
What can Mercury teach us about the Solar System?

Image 4.3
What can Mercury teach us about the Solar System?

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