Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NASA Spacecraft Completes Successful Earth Swingby

Date:
August 25, 2005
Source:
National Aeronautics And Space Administration
Summary:
NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft, headed toward the first study of Mercury from orbit, has swung by Earth for a gravity assist that propelled it deeper into the inner solar system.

Earth loomed large in MESSENGER's field-of-view on July 30, 2005, as the spacecraft approached its home planet for a gravity-assist flyby. The Narrow Angle Camera in MESSENGER’s Mercury Dual Imaging System snapped this image, showing clear morning skies over Australia, when the spacecraft was about 655,570 miles (1.05 million kilometers) from Earth.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington/Northwestern University

NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft, headed toward the first study ofMercury from orbit, has swung by Earth for a gravity assist thatpropelled it deeper into the inner solar system.

Mission operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied PhysicsLaboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md, said MESSENGER's systems performedflawlessly. The spacecraft swooped around Earth, coming to a closestapproach point of approximately 1,458 miles (2,347 kilometers) overcentral Mongolia at 3:13 p.m. EDT on August 2.

The spacecraft used the tug of Earth's gravity to significantlychange its trajectory. Its average orbit distance is nearly 18 millionmiles closer to the sun. The maneuver sent it toward Venus for anothergravity-assist flyby next year.

Launched Aug. 3, 2004, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.,the solar-powered spacecraft is approximately 581 million miles (930million kilometers) into a 4.9 billion mile (7.9 billion kilometer)voyage that includes 14 more loops around the sun. MESSENGER will flypast Venus twice and Mercury three times before moving into orbit.

The Venus flybys in October 2006 and June 2007 will use the planet'sgravity to guide MESSENGER toward Mercury's orbit. The Mercury flybysin January 2008, October 2008 and September 2009 will help MESSENGERmatch the planet's speed. These events will set up the maneuver inMarch 2011 that starts a year-long science orbit around Mercury.

"This Earth flyby is the first of a number of critical missionmilestones during MESSENGER's circuitous journey toward Mercury orbitinsertion," said Sean C. Solomon, the mission's principal investigatorfrom the Carnegie Institution of Washington. "Not only did it help thespacecraft sharpen its aim toward our next maneuver, it presented aspecial opportunity to calibrate several of our science instruments."

MESSENGER's main camera snapped several approach shots of Earth andthe moon during the past week. Today the camera is taking a series ofcolor images, beginning with South America and continuing for one fullEarth rotation. Science team members will string the images into avideo documenting MESSENGER's departure.

On Earth approach, the craft's atmospheric and surface compositionspectrometer made several scans of the moon in conjunction with thecamera observations. In addition, the particle and magnetic fieldinstruments spent several hours measuring Earth's magnetosphere. Thescience team will download the data and images through NASA's DeepSpace Network over the next several weeks, continuing assessment of theinstruments' performance.

MESSENGER will conduct the first orbital study of Mercury, the leastexplored of the terrestrial planets that include Venus, Earth and Mars.During one Earth year (four Mercury years), MESSENGER will provide thefirst images of the entire planet. It will collect detailed informationabout the composition and structure of Mercury's crust, its geologichistory, nature of its atmosphere and magnetosphere, makeup of its coreand polar materials.

MESSENGER, short for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment,GEochemistry, and Ranging, is the seventh mission in NASA's DiscoveryProgram of lower-cost scientifically focused exploration projects. APLdesigned, built and operates the spacecraft and manages the mission forNASA's Science Mission Directorate.

For information about the spacecraft and mission on the Web, visit:

http://messenger.jhuapl.eduFor information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/home/index.html


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Aeronautics And Space Administration. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Aeronautics And Space Administration. "NASA Spacecraft Completes Successful Earth Swingby." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 August 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050819092848.htm>.
National Aeronautics And Space Administration. (2005, August 25). NASA Spacecraft Completes Successful Earth Swingby. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050819092848.htm
National Aeronautics And Space Administration. "NASA Spacecraft Completes Successful Earth Swingby." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050819092848.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

SpaceX Cargo Ship Blasts Off Toward Space Station

SpaceX Cargo Ship Blasts Off Toward Space Station

AFP (Sep. 21, 2014) SpaceX's unmanned Dragon cargo ship blasts off toward the International Space Station, carrying a load of supplies and science experiments for the astronauts living there. Duration: 00:35 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's MAVEN To Study Martian Atmosphere

NASA's MAVEN To Study Martian Atmosphere

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) NASA's Maven will soon give information that could explain what happened to Mars' atmosphere. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
3-D Printing Enters The Final Frontier

3-D Printing Enters The Final Frontier

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) NASA sent a 3-D printer to the International Space Station, bringing manufacturing to space for the first time. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins