More images released of Mercury, taken by orbiter
March 30th, 2011
04:36 PM ET

More images released of Mercury, taken by orbiter

NASA released on Wednesday more of the first images of Mercury taken by a spacecraft orbiting the planet, including the first color closeups depicting it in all its pock-marked glory.

The images were taken by NASA's Messenger spacecraft, the first mission to orbit the planet closest to the sun, according to Messenger's website. Mercury has been seen up close before in fly-bys, but this mission marks the first complete long view reconnaissance of the planet’s geochemistry, geophysics, geologic history, atmosphere, magnetosphere, and plasma environment.

The mission also allows NASA and its partner, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, an opportunity to show off Messenger's impressive Mercury Dual Imaging System, which has two cameras: the Narrow Angle Camera and the Wide Angle Camera, NASA said.

The first image acquired by Messenger, which was released Tuesday, was part of an eight-image sequence for which images were acquired through eight of the wide angle camera's 11 filters. A color version of that first imaged terrain, pocked with craters, was obtained through the filters and displayed in red, green, and blue, respectively, NASA said.

Over the next two days, Messenger will acquire more than 1,000 additional images in support of a phase to review spacecraft and instrument performance. The yearlong primary science phase of the mission will begin on April 4, during which it is expected to acquire more than 75,000 images.

The Messenger spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and after fly-bys of Earth, Venus and Mercury, started its historic orbit around Mercury on March 17.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the Messenger spacecraft and manages the Discovery-class mission for NASA. Messenger is an acronym for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging.

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soundoff (193 Responses)
  1. Buzzard Tony

    Good stuff midnite, but we need to head the other way! The Mercury deal is for the whim of a very few specialized scientists, unless of course they are looking for some precios metal that can only be found tehre, and then we return to what makes everything turn, $$$$$$$$$$$

    March 30, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Bilbobaggins

    Mercury photo= totally stellar!

    March 30, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Kate

    Mercury is probably the coolest planet out there – never gets enough PR! Here is more info on the planet: http://moonphases.info/mercury-information.html

    March 30, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Hope111

    Yep, our little Earth is very special and wonderful, yet so fragile little place.....

    When I see the heavens, and all the heavenly bodies spread out in it, it makes my heart leap to know that all this was created by our infinite Creator.

    All that exists declares His glory and testifies of His wisdom and power ! ! Has anyone thought how the Creation is the picture of the One who created it? ... Our universe is endless.... The ULTIMATE attribute of our God IS THAT HE IS ENDLESS, ETERNAL..... All I can say is I AM IN AWE.........:)

    March 30, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Sarah P.

    I can see Mercury from my back porch !

    March 30, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • odumba

      Mercury, I can't see Mercury. Is that a car or something......... Is this something about General Motors??
      Wait, what do you see. Let me get Biden, he'll explain it to me.

      March 31, 2011 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
  6. Russ139

    Doesn't look a day older than 8,000 years.

    March 30, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Joe Vignolo, Derry, NH

    Notice that it took 7 years and several gravity-assist flybys of the Earth, Venus and Mercury to get the probe into orbit around Mercury? If the stupid politicians hadn't scrapped the Saturn 5 rocket we could still launch large payloads into deep space without having to play cosmic billiard balls to get them to their destinations.

    March 30, 2011 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Andrew

      Playing cosmic billiard balls is the cheapest way to go. Contrary to many of the idiots out there, NASA does not have much money to go throwing around on their projects. They pioneer cheap and efficient space travel, that means using gravitational slingshots when we can.

      March 30, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Unafy

    My Plan is to go to 55 Cancri!!

    March 30, 2011 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Steve

    For those of you who believe NASA only contribution has been the creation of velcro and tang and on other useless commercial products, please remember that if NASA had never existed many of our modern advances would not exist. Therefore if we had never launched a single satellite into orbit as part of the NASA mission, we would not have CELL Phones, Computers ,etc and many other moden technologies that we all benefit from every day.

    March 30, 2011 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Augustus Fuller

    Now- if we are going to have a federal government, a proposition this Swamper has never quite accepted- and if they are going print trillions of dollars to spend- this is the sort of frivolity I would like to see it spent on. Anything to keep the evil children in DC occupied.

    March 30, 2011 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Mike

    Makes you realize how beautiful earth is. This looks no different than the moon, Neptune, or any other usless floating rock in this solar system. Earth is all we've got. It doesn't need us but we sure as hell need it....

    March 30, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Judas

    I'm so happy I helped pay for this picture, by the thousands, with my taxed income... I was crossing my fingers I was going to get to see this before I died... Yay...

    March 30, 2011 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mauna Kea

      Judas – you did know that for the current 2009 fiscal year, NASA’s budget is 17.2 billion dollars or .55 percent of the overall federal budget. For the 2010 fiscal year, NASA is slated to get 18.7 billion dollars, part of it in stimulus money, or .52 percent of the federal budget. That is basically half of 1 % of the overall fiscal budget.

      WELL WORTH IT!!!

      March 31, 2011 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Lone

      You, as a likely average private citizen, paid fractions of a cent in any given year for NASA efforts (which have been returned a million fold in technologies, like the internet, created as a result). It's fine if you don't agree with how taxes are spent but don't inflate the cost with ignorant politicking. This isn't healthcare.

      March 31, 2011 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
  13. OC25

    OMG! I see dozens and dozens of faces!

    Mercury must be the third civilization!

    March 30, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Justin

    Spend the money on the homeless & human services FIRST.

    March 30, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lone

      You don't understand the need for balance, the value of lead up, or the failures of government spending outside of NASA. We could fund most every basic service, or boost education to the top of the world in this country, just by requiring defense contractors to deliver on time and budget like they're expected to in a corporate environment.

      March 31, 2011 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. Gorko

    Hello earthlings greetings from Mercury! Now take that stupid probe of yours back & stop bothering us! As you were & keep screwing up your planet!
    Regards,
    Gorko

    March 30, 2011 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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