MESSENGER’s ceramic cloth sunshade
MESSENGER (Mercury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) pulled into orbit around Mercury on March 17, 2011. It has taken the space probe six years to go from Earth to Mercury, while maneuvering around Venus. MESSENGER is hopefully going to answer many questions about the planet, including better images that will provide information about the surface; what Mercury’s core is made of (the currently popular hypothesis is iron); and more information about Mercury’s magnetic field.
It has taken years to get MESSENGER ready to build on what we already know about Mercury. From building the probe, to analyzing old images of Mercury taken by the Mariner space probe, studying Mercury has been one of NASA’s biggest ongoing projects. One way to follow the space probe's progress is by checking the MESSENGER Twitter feed.
This artist’s rendition depicts MESSENGER’s ceramic cloth sunshade that protects the exterior instruments.
Image credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, courtesy of NASA
Also check out the CNET News.com gallery Messenger from Earth reaches Mercury's orbit.