NASA’s Messenger Probe reaches Mercury Orbit…

For the first time in human history we have managed to  orbit Mercury with a probe.

This mission will continue to revolutionize our understanding of Mercury during the coming year

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

For the first time in history, a scientific observatory is in orbit about our solar system’s innermost planet. Mercury’s secrets, and the implications they hold for the formation and evolution of Earth-like planets, are about to be revealed.

Sean Solomon, MESSENGER principal investigator of the Carnegie Institution of Washington

Along its long journey to Mercury it has photographed many of the planets in the Solar System – it was launched in 2004.

But space travel is rarely as simple as travelling in a straight line. To coast along with the minimum fuel being used can take several loops around the solar system before finally slipping into orbit.

Below you can see photos Messenger took along its route.

Not bad for a box that measures 1.85 meters tall, 1.42 m wide and 1.27 m deep.

While it is there Messenger will try to

  • find out the surface composition of Mercury
  • work out the geological history of the planet
  • measure the strength of the magnetic field and its variation with position and altitude
  • look for the presence of a liquid outer core
  • work out what the radar reflective materials at Mercury’s poles are

I think one more picture might just about finish this article… LOL

Mr G

Sources: NASA Press release, NASA Messenger Website, Wikipedia