NASA’s Messenger Spacecraft was sent out back in 2004 to investigate Mercury. The goal was to study and orbit the planet. The spacecraft was reported to have made fifteen trips around the sun before the entry into Mercury’s orbit. Unfortunately, NASA’s spacecraft has run out of fuel and the only option is to crash into Mercury. Messenger, which has been collecting information on Mercury since approximately 2011 when it entered the planet’s orbit, will crash at about 8,750 miles per hour.
The inevitable crash is expected to leave behind a crater of sixteen meters in diameter, according to Geek Wire News. Messenger, which is said to be eighteen or so miles above Mercury, due to NASA’s final effort to push the Messenger further into orbit following its drop to within nine miles of Mercury’s surface. April 30, 2015 is said to be the day of the unpreventable crash, according to The Daily Mail. The loss of fuel and the inability to deal with the force of the sun’s gravity are the main obstacles facing NASA’s doomed spacecraft.
The mission has not been unsuccessful considering the detailed photos that were obtained of Mercury which is the smallest planet in our solar system. The images are far more detailed than any that have ever been obtained before. Scientists have been able to learn more about Mercury’s features through these images. The data and images revealed that cliffs have formed as Mercury has cooled over time. Other images revealed a meteorite crater that has become filled with lava as well as patterns of hollows on the planet. Volcanic vents, the complexity of the internal structure of Mercury, and also the large core composed partly of liquid were revealed through the images taken. Supposedly over 250,000 images were taken and large amounts of data were collected revealing additional and formerly unknown details about Mercury.
Despite the impending crash, researchers and scientists are elated over all of the information that they have been able to uncover about Mercury, especially in the last year or so, according to Statesmen News. They feel that they have come so much further in terms of data and their overall knowledge of Mercury, so the mission even though doomed was not a complete failure by any means. This is only step one in a long journey to learn all that there is to know about Mercury and all of its wonders.
NASA has stated that the primary goal of the mission was to orbit mercury and send back vital data to the Earth. One key bit of information that they found was that the ice in Mercury’s polar regions helped to further explain to scientists how the planets are able to get some type of water supply. This information along with the many detailed images taken of Mercury will help to make scientists more knowledgeable about the planet and assist them on any other space missions in the future.
NASA’s Messenger is said to hit on the opposite side of Mercury where it will not be visible to Earth, which is unfortunate for scientists who could have gained additional information through the viewing of the crash. Even with the crash into Mercury inevitable, the mission was primarily a success and NASA’s Messenger will always be remembered for its findings and how it will aid in future missions to space, according to Geek Wire News.
By Heather Granruth
Photo by NASA/T. Arai Flickr Page – Flickr License