Saturday, 19 March 2011


The MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging (MESSENGER) probe is a 485-kilogram (1067 pound) robotic American space probe in orbit around the planet Mercury. It was launched by NASA in August 2004 to study the chemical composition, geology, and the magnetic field of Mercury. It became the second mission to successfully reach Mercury when it made a flyby on January 14, 2008, followed by a second flyby on October 6, 2008,[2] and a third flyby on September 29, 2009.[3][4] (The first space probe to reach Mercury was Mariner 10 in 1975.) MESSENGER is the first spacecraft to orbit the planet Mercury. Orbiting Mercury is difficult because a satellite approaching on a direct path from Earth would be accelerated by the Sun's gravity and pass Mercury too quickly to orbit it.

The instruments carried by MESSENGER have performed well on previous flybys of Venus, Earth, and Mercury itself. MESSENGER successfully entered Mercury orbit on March 18, 2011 with no reported problems. The craft's science instruments will be reactivated March 23, and its formal science data collection mission is slated to begin April 4, 2011.

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