No longer just a messenger to the gods, Mercury is sharing information with us now, thanks to the MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) mission. On March 29, 2011, NASA shared the first-ever image from Mercury orbit.
Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
MESSENGER, which launched on August 3, 2004, was built to enter Mercury orbit and capture imagery, telemetry, and analysis of the planet’s makeup. The MESSENGER spacecraft has had a long and arduous journey, as it performed a slingshot maneuver around Earth, breezed past Venus, and then spent the last three years or so (including six planetary flybys) slowly tightening its orbit around Mercury to enter a safe enough orbit for its intended mission.
For more information, take a look at the official NASA MESSENGER mission page and Nicole Bremer Nash’s TechRepublic image gallery, MESSENGER mission to collect new data about Mercury.