NASA's MESSENGER Will Crash and Burn on Thursday

Monday, 27 April 2015 - 10:49AM
Space
Astronomy
Solar System
Monday, 27 April 2015 - 10:49AM
NASA's MESSENGER Will Crash and Burn on Thursday
After four long years of exploring the mysterious Mercury, MESSENGER's storied journey is coming to an end, as the probe will self-destruct by crashing into the planet's surface on Thursday.

Until MESSENGER, no manmade probe had ever explored or even studied Mercury, mostly as a result of its diminutive size and its close proximity to the Sun. Aside from a few meager observations from flybys performed by Mariner 10, we had no information about the planet at all. "Although Mercury is one of Earth's nearest planetary neighbors, astonishingly little was known when we set out," MESSENGER principal investigator Sean Solomon said at a recent NASA briefing.

But thanks to MESSENGER, we now have information about Mercury's magnetic field, its geology, its inner composition, and so much more. MESSENGER has mapped 100% of Mercury's surface in the last four years, as well as performing flybys of Earth and Venus.

It also found a smiley face crater, just for good measure:
NASA's MESSENGER Will Crash and Burn on Thursday

MESSENGER is currently preparing for impact, as the probe is rapidly losing the last of its maneuvering propellant and will suffer from orbital decay. As a result, it will inevitably crash to its fiery death on the surface of Mercury, most likely on April 30.

For our list of MESSENGER's best, most historic moments, click here, and make sure to check back for coverage of the explosive event on Thursday.

Via Vox.
Science
NASA
Space
Astronomy
Solar System

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