MESSENGER is in good health and operating normally. After the successful trajectory correction maneuver on Nov. 18 - the last in a series of three maneuvers planned for early mission operations - the operations team switched from commanding the spacecraft in real time to using command sequences stored in MESSENGER's onboard computer. Also, as scheduled, the team has reduced its tracking time (contact with MESSENGER through NASA's Deep Space Network) from six 8-hour sessions a week to three.
Science and engineering team members are analyzing results from the first Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) instrument calibration test since launch. On Nov. 29, the spacecraft was tilted 27 degrees so the camera could image sunlight reflected off a target inside the payload attachment fitting, which surrounds MDIS and three other instruments on MESSENGER's underside. Operators have since returned MESSENGER to its pre-test orientation.
Stat Corner: MESSENGER is about 98.6 million miles (158.6 million kilometers) from the Sun and 25.7 million miles (41.3 million kilometers) from Earth. At that distance, the amount of time for a signal to reach the spacecraft from Earth is 2 minutes, 17 seconds. Since liftoff, MESSENGER's onboard computers have executed 18,682 commands from mission operators.