Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

First mission to Mercury

Date:
February 2, 2011
Source:
Institute of Physics
Summary:
As the team of scientists behind NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft eagerly awaits the craft’s entry into Mercury’s orbit on 17 March, we could soon get answers to questions about the origin, composition, interior structure and geological history of this mysterious planet.

As the team of scientists behind NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft eagerly awaits the craft's entry into Mercury's orbit on 17 March, we could soon get answers to questions about the origin, composition, interior structure and geological history of this mysterious planet. Louise Prockter, deputy project scientist on the mission, writes in February's Physics World about the challenges the craft has been designed to face, the early successes of the mission and her own triumphant voyage over the past decade's work.

A journey to Mercury faces once-thought insurmountable challenges -- from intense solar radiation, extreme hot and cold, and the need for a seemingly prohibitive amount of fuel to make it to our Solar System's most inner planet. With solar radiation 11 times more intense around Mercury than around Earth, and with temperatures reaching 425ēC on the planet's sunlit surface and dipping as low as -185ēC on its night side, the intricate instruments designed to observe Mercury have much to be protected from.

Prockter describes the design of a sunshield made of heat-resistant ceramic cloth, cleverly crafted to keep almost all the instruments at room temperature, and the highly elliptical orbit the craft will embark upon in order to avoid the solar heat that Mercury's surface radiates back into space.

Following six "gravity assists" -- using the gravity of planets to help tweak a spacecraft's direction, avoiding the need to use prohibitive amounts of fuel -- MESSENGER is more than six years into its journey and soon to embark upon the key part of its mission. Over the last three years, MESSENGER has been using Mercury's own gravity to line itself up for entry into its desired orbit. During this stage of the journey, MESSENGER has already captured shots of Mercury, revealing a hemisphere that had never been imaged before.

These early successes demonstrate the craft's capability and provide early promise of far greater success. On receipt of these early images of Mercury, Prockter writes: "How often in your life do you get to see something completely unexplored?...My first feeling was one of complete joy and disbelief -- a perfect, beautiful, gibbous Mercury filled the screen, showing an incredible level of detail."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Institute of Physics. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Institute of Physics. "First mission to Mercury." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110201084026.htm>.
Institute of Physics. (2011, February 2). First mission to Mercury. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110201084026.htm
Institute of Physics. "First mission to Mercury." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110201084026.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) — A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) — NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) — Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

NASA (July 18, 2014) — Apollo 11 yesterday, Next Giant Leap tomorrow, Science instruments for Europa mission, and more... Video provided by NASA
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