In August 2004 NASA launched a space probe the mission of which was supposed to last one year and provide crucial information on one of the rocky planets in our solar system. That planet was Mercury.
It was also Mercury that pulled Messenger’s mission to an end on Thursday last week, said the Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. After an orbit of four years around Mercury, eight billion kilometers travelled, two trips around Venus and 15 around the Sun, Messenger sent one last image of the rocky Mercury surface to the NASA team.
The Messenger mission has been a very expensive, yet highly successful one, the scientists stated. With an original budget of 450 million dollars, the yielded results were amazing. Craters on the surface of Mercury, as well as hidden ice formations, geologic formations and magnetic anomalies are better known and can be better interpreted by the scientist teams. The space probe returned 277,000 images of Mercury, shedding light into the origin and evolution of the solar system’s innermost planet.
The latest space probe crashed into Mercury’s hot surface at 14,000 kilometers per hour, and 20 minutes later NASA lost track of its beacon, after years of maneuvers to keep it afloat against the gravitational pull of the planet.
Andy Calloway, the Mission Operation Manager, stated:
“It will be a bit surreal for the team on that final orbit when we no longer receive the signal from our intrepid spacecraft. MESSENGER has been dutifully collecting data all these years in one of the most challenging thermal and space weather environments of the entire Solar System. On that final orbit, the probe will travel behind the planet from Earth’s perspective, as it has hundreds of times before, but unlike those times it will never re-emerge from the opposite side. Its signal will still be traveling through space back to Earth, however, after the spacecraft has hit the surface.”
Image Source: ibtimes.co.uk
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