Press Release

NASA MESSENGER Completes Successful Earth Flyby

By SpaceRef Editor
August 3, 2005
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NASA MESSENGER Completes Successful Earth Flyby

The MESSENGER spacecraft swung by its home planet today for a gravity assist that propelled it deeper into the inner solar system. Mission operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md, say MESSENGER’s systems performed flawlessly as the spacecraft swooped around Earth, coming to a closest approach point of about 1,458 miles (2,347 kilometers) over central Mongolia at 3:13 p.m. EDT. The spacecraft used the tug of Earth’s gravity to change its trajectory significantly, bringing its average orbit distance nearly 18 million miles closer to the Sun and sending it toward Venus for another gravity-assist flyby next year.

“One flyby down, five more to go,” says Mark Holdridge, MESSENGER mission operations manager, of APL. “Now, the mission begins.”

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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 Aug. 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 the Discovery-class mission for NASA.

SpaceRef staff editor.