Before its crash-landing into the surface of its long-studied host planet, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft sent back its final view of the surface of Mercury. And now NASA is sharing it with you. Exceeding all expectations and lasting more than 4 times its original mission timeline, the spacecraft has been instrumental to NASA's vast studies of the other planets within our solar system, so with this image and a fiery display to end its mission with flair, the space agency is paying homage to MESSENGER and its long life in orbit.
"As the first spacecraft ever to orbit Mercury, MESSENGER revolutionized our understanding of the solar system's innermost planet, as well as accomplished technological first that made the mission possible" spokespersons from NASA said in their farewell remarks to MESSENGER.
Originally launched in August of 2004, MESSENGER traveled 4.9 billion miles, including 15 trips around the sun, before it entered orbit in March 2011. In the course of its mission it collected images and information of Earth, Venus and Mercury, and its seven onboard high-tech instruments allowed NASA's researchers to have a uniquely new perspective of the innermost ring of planets orbiting our Sun.
This week the spacecraft succumbed to the pull of solar gravity, impacting Mercury's surface in a dramatic display, crash-landing just north of the Shakespeare Basin. This image is the final transmission sent from MESSENGER and gives a view of its final resting place in the floor of the 93km-diameter crater known as "Jokai".