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The tip of the Boeing Delta II rocket with its MESSENGER spacecraft on top breaks through the billows of smoke below as it lifts off on August 3, 2004, at 2:15:56 a.m. EDT from Launch Pad 17-B, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is on a seven-year journey to the planet Mercury. The spacecraft will fly by Earth, Venus and Mercury several times to burn off energy before making its final approach to the inner planet on March 18, 2011. MESSENGER was built for NASA by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.

Credit: National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA


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