MESSENGER Settles Old Debates and Makes New Discoveries at Mercury
Date: July 3, 2008
NASA's MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) is the first mission sent to orbit the planet closest to the Sun. It will use Mercury's gravity for a critical assist needed to keep the spacecraft on track for its orbit insertion around the planet three years from now. Analyses of data from the spacecraft's January 14, 2008, flyby of the planet reveal that volcanoes were involved in plains formation and suggest that its magnetic field is actively produced in the planet's core and is not a frozen relic. Scientists additionally took their first look at the chemical composition the planet's surface material. The tiny craft probed the composition of Mercury's thin atmosphere, sampled charged particles (ions) near the planet, and demonstrated new links between both sets of observations and materials on Mercury's surface. The results are reported in a series of 11 papers published in a special section of Science magazine on July 4, 2008. MESSENGER was launched on Aug. 3, 2004. After flybys of Earth, Venus, and Mercury, it will start a year-long orbital study of Mercury in March 2011.
- Marilyn Lindstrom, MESSENGER Program Scientist, NASA Headquarters, Washington
- Sean C. Solomon, MESSENGER Principal Investigator, Carnegie Institution of Washington
- James W. Head III, MESSENGER Co-Investigator and the Louis and Elizabeth Scherck Distinguished Professor of Geological Sciences, Brown University
- William McClintock, MESSENGER Co-Investigator and Senior Research Association, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder
- Thomas H. Zurbuchen, MESSENGER Science Team Member and Professor, Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, University of Michigan
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Carnegie Institution of Washington
The NASA MESSENGER Media teleconference will take place on Thursday, July 3, 2008, at 2 p.m. EDT. To participate in the teleconference, reporters in the United States should call 1-888-455-3616 and use the passcode "messenger." International reporters should call 1-517-623-4705. Audio of the teleconference will be streamed live at: http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio.