A NASA Discovery mission to conduct the first orbital study of the innermost planet
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Making the Shade

In this view, engineers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory install a mockup of MESSENGER's sunshade. Assembly of the actual shade will begin soon, and the mockup ensures that the final shade will fit perfectly. Due to Mercury's close proximity to the Sun the spacecraft's temperature would climb to unmanageable levels without special protection. The outside of this 6-foot solar umbrella will rise to 680°F (360°C), while its special insulating properties will keep its inside surface below 212°F (100°C) - and the spacecraft operating at room temperature.

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Last updated: April 14, 2003


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