Science Library - free educational site

Mercury mapped by Messenger

Messenger's 11 year epic journey yet another triumph for NASA and JPL

Launched in 2004, this NASA probe was the first and only to enter orbit around Mercury. From March 18, 2011, till April 30, 2015, Messenger scanned the surface of Mercury, until it was crashlanded, as planned, on April 30, 2015. Its mission included two fly-bys of Venus, and to study the chemical composition, geology, and magnetic field of Mercury.

Mercury from Mariner 10, 1973
NASA's Messenger scanned the surface of Mercury, until it was crashlanded, as planned, on April 30, 2015

One of the innovative features of this highly-successful mission was the use of a complex series of fly-bys, between Earth (x1), Venus (x2) and Mercury (x3), in order to minimise expenditure of fuel, while slowing enough to enter orbit around Mercury. Many probes fly past planets, in order to profit from the rapid acceleration from their gravity, known as the slingshot, so they can travel the vast distances between planets in reasonable time. However, the disadvantage is that it would take a great deal of energy, heavy fuel, to slow down enough to enter orbit. The technique used by NASA for Messenger proved that it is possible to have the best of both solutions - and get the data we so eagerly want before the original probe designers are in retirement.

Messenger shield
NASA Messenger shield

Messenger spent 10 months taking nearly 100,000 pictures of Mercury's surface, which mapped the surface completely. Due to the closeness of its orbit, it required regular boosts to maintain orbit. When it finally ran out of propellant, after two year-long mission extensions, it was allowed to embrace its new home more intimately.

Among its discoveries was the confirmation that there is water ice at Mercury's North Pole. It also sent back data about how the planet formed, the chemical composition of its surface, the core, the poles, magnetic field and its exosphere.

Article by Andrew Bone, January 6, 2016

News Articles

Other News

Latest Item on Science Library

The most recent article is:

Trigonometry

View this item in the topic:

Vectors and Trigonometry

and many more articles in the subject:

Subject of the Week

Mathematics

Mathematics is the most important tool of science. The quest to understand the world and the universe using mathematics is as old as civilisation, and has led to the science and technology of today. Learn about the techniques and history of mathematics on ScienceLibrary.info.

Mathematics

Test your knowledge!

Question: How much energy is used to run a circuit at 60W for 20 seconds?




Go to the article about: Electrical energy and power

IT Forum by Sean Bone

Quote of the day...

The great thing about science is that it is true whether you believe in it or not.

ZumGuy Internet Promotions

IT information forum by Sean Bone