September 30, 2009 14:37 by scibuff
The MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft, launched on August 3, 2004 is the first mission to visit Mercury in over three decades. Yesterday, at 21:55 UTC, the probe flew by Mercury 228 km above the surface with the relative speed of 5.28 km/s. The third and final gravity assist slowed down the spacecraft and placed it on a trajectory for Mercury Orbital Insertion (MOI) on March 18, 2011.
Yesterday, as the spacecraft approached Mercury for the mission's third flyby of the Solar System’s innermost planet, MESSENGER captured this striking view. This WAC image shows portions of Mercury's surface that had remained unseen by spacecraft even after the three flybys by Mariner 10 in 1974-75 and MESSENGER's two earlier flybys in 2008 - Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
Mercury's northern horizon cuts a crisp line against the blackness of space - Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
Watch an animation of the spacecraft maneuvers and the instrument observations planned for MESSENGER’s third flyby of Mercury.