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With Explore the Planets, investigate the planets, their moons, and understand the processes that shape them. By G. Jeffrey Taylor, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.
This is what MESSENGER might look like when it gets to Mercury. The white sunshade is on the left side of the spacecraft.
Image courtesy NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington.

MESSENGER Mission to Mercury

A new spacecraft is going to the planet Mercury. The spacecraft is called MESSENGER. MESSENGER is only the second spacecraft ever to visit Mercury!

MESSENGER will blast off in August 2004. It will get to Mercury seven years later in 2011. It will take a crazy path on its way to Mercury. It will fly by Earth once, Venus twice, and Mercury three times! Then it will go into orbit around Mercury.

Mariner 10 is the only other spacecraft to visit Mercury. It took pictures of about half of Mercury in the mid 1970's. MESSENGER will take pictures of all of Mercury. It will also study the surface, inside, and magnetic field of Mercury.

Mercury is very hot because it is so close to the Sun. Why won't MESSENGER get fried? The spacecraft has a special sunshade to keep it cool. The sunshade is like the umbrellas people take to the beach for shade!

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA