At 16:30 UTC (11:30 a.m. EST) today, MESSENGER flight controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., received the first telemetry from the spacecraft following the probe's closest approach to Mercury yesterday. All spacecraft subsystems and instruments are operating normally, and telemetry data indicate that the command sequence during the flyby executed as expected.
The data from the probe - which include 1,213 images - are scheduled to start coming down to the Deep Space Network in Canberra, Australia in a few hours. As soon as the downlink transmission is complete, the MESSENGER Science Team will complete the processing of the first images.
"We are delighted with the successful outcome of the flyby," said MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. "The MESSENGER team is now eagerly awaiting the return of all of the scientific observations made over the past two days. We hope to share, within the next 24 hours, a first look at the side of Mercury never before seen at close range."
Additional information and features from this first flyby will be available online at http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/mer_flyby1.html. Following the flyby, be sure to check for the latest released images and science results!
MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is a NASA-sponsored scientific investigation of the planet Mercury and the first space mission designed to orbit the planet closest to the Sun. The MESSENGER spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and after flybys of Earth, Venus, and Mercury will start a yearlong study of its target planet in March 2011. Dr. Sean C. Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, leads the mission as Principal Investigator. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the MESSENGER spacecraft and manages this Discovery-class mission for NASA.