From: Johns Hopkins University
Posted: Monday, August 3, 2015
Eleven years ago today -- at 2:15:56 am EDT -- NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft was launched aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and after more than 6 1/2 years in transit it became the first spacecraft to orbit the innermost planet in our solar system.
The spacecraft is no more; on April 30 it impacted the surface of Mercury, as expected. But the team of scientists and engineers who built and operated the probe continues to analyze the many terabytes of data acquired.
"MESSENGER the spacecraft may be no more, but the information it provided about Mercury continues to expand what we know about the planet and the origin of our solar system," said James Green, Director of NASA's Planetary Science Division. "The spacecraft already far exceeded our expectations, and we look forward to more fabulous results that will come from the analysis of the archived data."
In a video released today, "Making Mercury Whole," MESSENGER team members recount some highlights of the mission, originally planned to orbit Mercury for only one year, but ultimately orbiting the planet for more than four years.
"This has been an extraordinary year for planetary science, with discoveries from the innermost planet to Pluto and the outer reaches of the solar system, from comets to asteroids, and from rocky planets to gas giants," adds MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon, of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. "Our Science Team is continuing to validate, archive, and analyze data from the entire MESSENGER mission, and we can expect that Mercury will give up a few more of its secrets before we're done."
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