Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan

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Chair Comments on 100,000th MESSENGER Image

Posted: May 17, 2012

The MESSENGER mission has now been in orbit around Mercury for about 14 months and its 100,000th image of the surface was just recently received here on Earth. This milestone is very significant to the engineers and scientists who designed and built MESSENGER because it proves not only the robustness of the spacecraft, but also the operations and science team which oversees its operations and analyses the new measurements received each day.

Conceived about 25 yrs ago as a cost-constrained, yet high impact planetary science mission, MESSENGER’s simplified design, built around its all-important sun-shade, and focused science payload has achieved all of its primary science goals and is now well into its extended mission.

MESSENGER has mapped the topography and composition of the surface, measured the extent of volcanic re-surfacing, and discovered high radar reflectivity material, possibly water ice, trapped at the bottom of  impact craters that are always in shadow.

The mission has also imaged the structure of Mercury’s thin metallic exosphere and measured the magnetic structure and charged particle populations that constitute the Solar System’s most dynamic magnetosphere. All-in-all MESSENGER will do down in the history of the exploration of the Solar System as one of humanity’s most successful robotic missions of discovery.

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