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Out of the Oven

MESSENGER is now well done! The spacecraft is out of the thermal vacuum chamber at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center after five weeks of rigorous environmental tests. Engineers baked the sunshade to about 350 degrees Celsius (662 degrees Fahrenheit) without a problem, and the spacecraft showed it could withstand the wide range of hot and cold temperatures it will face on its journey to and mission around Mercury.

This week's image, taken from the February 26 Webcam movie (small or large version), shows MESSENGER just after it was removed from the thermal vacuum chamber. The spacecraft currently sits in the "Big Tent" at Goddard, a temporary 43- by 13-foot clean room just outside the chamber. The engineer on the ladder is checking the alignment of key components, making sure everything stayed in place during the tests and a crane-lifted move out of the chamber.

Next week MESSENGER begins its trip to Mercury in the back of an air-conditioned semi-trailer; first stop Kennedy Space Center/Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. After final checkouts and being attached to its Delta II rocket, MESSENGER is scheduled to lift off during a 12-day launch period that opens May 11.

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Last updated: March 05, 2004


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