A NASA Discovery mission to conduct the first orbital study
of the innermost planet
NASA logo carnegie institution logo JHU APL logo

Why Mercury?
The Mission
News Center
Science Operations
Who We Are
Related Links

Download iPhone/iPad app Information about Mercury Flybys Question and Answer End of Orbit Insertion Where is MESSENGER? Where is Mercury now? Subscribe to MESSENGER eNews

The Mission

To become the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury, MESSENGER followed a path through the inner solar system, including one flyby of Earth, two flybys of Venus, and three flybys of Mercury. This impressive journey yielded the first return of new spacecraft data from Mercury since the Mariner 10 mission more than 30 years ago. Here you can find details about that journey, the MESSENGER spacecraft, and the instrument payload.

MESSENGER's First Year Orbit at Mercury

MESSENGER's orbit about Mercury is highly eccentric; its lowest point above the surface is 200 kilometers (124 miles) and the highest point is more than 15,000 kilometers (9,300 miles). Click on primary or extended to learn more about MESSENGER's orbit during the primary and extended mission phases.

MESSENGER's Extended Mission Orbit at Mercury

Mission Timeline

View an interactive timeline of the MESSENGER mission. The timeline features graphics, animations, and closest approach facts for launch, all six planetary flybys, and Mercury orbit insertion.

Mission Design

Learn about how MESSENGER utilizes events such as planetary flybys and trajectory correction maneuvers to enter an orbit around Mercury, the fastest planet in our solar system.


Learn about the details of the spacecraft and how the spacecraft systems are designed to address the challenges of becoming the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.


Find details about MESSENGER's science payload, which includes seven scientific instruments and a radio science experiment, all designed to operate in the extreme environment near the Sun.

planetary flybys

Access webpages created specifically for MESSENGER's planetary flybys and Mercury orbit insertion.


View a list of professional publications, which contain details about the technical aspects of the spacecraft, the instruments, and designing and operating the MESSENGER mission.


   Top  | Contacts
© 1999-2015 by JHU/APL