March 31, 2011
MESSENGER becomes the First Spacecraft to Orbit Mercury
Photo: An artist’s concept shows the MESSENGER spacecraft in orbit around Mercury. Credit: NASA.
NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft entered orbit around Mercury March 17, becoming the first spacecraft to ever do so. While orbiting Mercury, MESSENGER’s instruments will perform the first complete reconnaissance of the planet’s geochemistry, geophysics, geologic history, atmosphere, magnetosphere, and plasma environment. On March 29, the Mercury Dual Imaging System was turned on and began capturing the first of thousands of orbital images.
Photo: From Orbit, Looking toward Mercury’s Horizon. MESSENGER acquired this image of Mercury’s horizon as the spacecraft was moving northward. Credit: NASA, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and Carnegie Institution of Washington.