MESSENGER will give us much better images of Mercury than this one!
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA
The MErcury Surface Space ENvironment, GEochemistry Ranging mission (MESSENGER) was chosen as the next mission to Mercury. The Mariner 10 spacecraft last visited Mercury in 1975. Since then, scientists have been interested in Mercury's atmosphere, surface and core. The MESSENGER spacecraft is scheduled to launch in 2004 and will begin its orbit around the tiny planet in 2009.
MESSENGER will study a number of things during its journey. Scientists are hoping to learn more about the planet's thin atmosphere, the origin of its high density, the composition and structure of its crust and the mystery behind the polar caps.
MESSENGER is part of the Discovery Program, an alternative to the high cost missions once used by NASA. The mission is estimated to cost $286 million and is led by John Hopkins University.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games
section of our online store
includes a climate change card game
and the Traveling Nitrogen game
You might also be interested in:
Mercury has almost no atmosphere. The planet's small size means that its gravity is too weak to hold down a normal atmosphere. There is a very thin atmosphere around the planet. Mercury's thin atmosphere...more
A spacecraft named Cassini will study the planet Saturn for several years. Cassini blasted off from Earth in October 1997. After flying past Venus, Earth, and Jupiter, Cassini finally arrived at Saturn...more
The MErcury Surface Space ENvironment, GEochemistry Ranging mission (MESSENGER) was chosen as the next mission to Mercury. The Mariner 10 spacecraft last visited Mercury in 1975. Since then, scientists...more