More than 10 years ago NASA launched it's MESSENGER spacecraft with a one-year long orbit mission in mind. But over the course of its 4.9 billion-mile-journey NASA came to find that the decade-long mission would exceed expectations far past their mark.
Traveling to the innermost layer of our solar system, MESSENGER's mission was first and foremost to research and study Mercury. Equipped with seven high-tech instruments onboard it would analyze Mercury's surface, space environment, geochemistry and ranging, which is how it got its acronym name (MESSENGER) to start with. Amongst its many accomplishment in its 15 orbits around the sun, MESSENGER determined the surface composition of Mercury, discovered its internal magnetic field, verified the polar deposits were mostly made up of water ice, and revealed a geological history much like that of Earth. Though the mission was an overwhelming success, that to date is undoubtedly NASA's glowing achievement, this week researchers and mission control bid adieu to MESSENGER as the spacecraft plummeted to the surface of Mercury in a landmark impact that will forever leave remnants behind of the mission that change space exploration forever.
"We bid a fond farewell to one of the most resilient and accomplished spacecraft to ever explore our neighboring planets" MESSENGER's principal investigator, Sean Solomon says. "A resourceful and committed team of engineers, mission operators, scientists, and managers can be extremely proud that the MESSENGER mission has surpassed all expectations and delivered a stunningly long list of discoveries that have changed our views-not only of one of Earth's sibling planets, but of the entire inner solar system."
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With so many headlines this weekend touching on the important mission we thought it'd be important to give you a glimpse into the history and importance of the MESSENGER mission. Because soon after impact you can rest assured that the milestone studies will be in the history books tomorrow.