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. Nodack

    Ski Boots
    These ski boots use accordion-like folds, similar to the design of space suits, to allow the boot to flex without distortion, yet still give support and control for precision skiing.

    Failsafe Flashlight
    This flashlight uses NASA's concept of system redundancy, which is always having a backup for the parts of the spacecraft with the most important jobs. This flashlight has an extra-bright primary bulb and an independent backup system that has its own separate lithium battery (also a NASA developed technology) and its own bulb.
    Invisible Braces
    These teeth-straightening braces use brackets that are made of a nearly invisible translucent (almost see-through) ceramic material. This material is a spinoff of NASA's advanced ceramic research to develop new, tough materials for spacecraft and aircraft.

    Edible Toothpaste
    This is a special foamless toothpaste developed for the astronauts to use in space (where spitting is not a very good idea!) Although this would be a great first toothpaste for small children, it is no longer available.

    Joystick Controllers
    Joystick controllers are used for lots of things now, including computer games and vehicles for people with disabilities. These devices evolved from research to develop a controller for the Apollo Lunar Rover, and from other NASA research into how humans actually operate (called "human factors").

    nvisible braces
    Invisible braces are made of translucent polycrystalline alumina (TPA). A company called Ceradyne developed TPA in conjunction with NASA Advanced Ceramics Research to protect the infrared antennae of heat-seeking missile trackers.

    Scratch Resistant Lenses
    Because of dirt and particles found in space environments, NASA needed a special coating to protect space equipment, particularly astronaut helmet visors.

    Memory Foam
    NASA helps some people sleep better at night. Temper foam found in Tempurpedic brand mattresses and similar brands was originally developed for space flight and later repackaged for the home.

    Shoe Insoles
    The space suit designed for the Apollo missions included specially-made boots that put a spring in astronaut's steps while providing ventilation. Athletic shoe companies have taken this technology and adopted it to construct better shoes that lessen the impact on your feet and legs.

    Long-distance Telecommunications
    Before humans were sent into space, NASA built satellites that could communicate with people on the ground about what outer space was like. Using similar satellite technology, around 200 communication satellites orbit the globe each day. These satellites send and receive messages that allow us to call our friends in Beijing when we're in Boston.

    Safety Grooving
    Safety grooving was first experimented with at NASA's Langely Research Center in the 1960s as a way to improve safety for aircraft taking off on wet runways. Once people realized how well it worked, transportation engineers began applying the same techniques to highways. According to NASA, safety grooving has reduced highway accidents by 85 percent . Cars hydroplane when water between tires and the road actually separates the two from each other.

    Water Filters
    Astronauts needed a way to cleanse water they take up into space, since bacteria and sickness would be highly problematic. Water filter technology had existed since the early 1950s, but NASA wanted to know how to clean water in more extreme situations and keep it clean for longer periods of time.

    Image Sensors
    If your cell phone has a camera, there’s a one in three chance that it uses technology derived directly from the space program. Ever since the world watched Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the moon, NASA has continued to push video recording as an essential mission goal.

    Aerodynamic Winglets
    Boeing, America’s primary aircraft manufacturer, set up Aviation Partners Boeing in 1999 to commercialize winglet technology developed by NASA engineers.In 2010, APB, which has been equipping Boeing planes with the improved winglets at a rate of 400 per year, quantified the benefits of the technology. The savings are described in NASA’s spinoff report: “Blended Winglet technology has saved two billion gallons of jet fuel worldwide. This represents a monetary savings of $4 billion and an equivalent reduction of almost 21.5 million tons in carbon dioxide emissions.”

    Rocket-Powered Parachutes
    Moving into airline safety, NASA was instrumental in successfully developing a technology that probably many have imagined: a parachute capable of floating an entire plane safely to the ground.

    Hairstyling Tools with Nanotechnology
    NASA research in putting ceramic coatings that allow the precise activation of drug-delivering microcapsules for cancer patients inspired the company’s founder, Farouk Shami, to apply the technology to his straightening irons. The resulting products, which feature ceramic coatings that emit negative ions when heated, turn out to have a number of benefits for frizzy hair.

    Oil Cleaning Bacteria
    One of the more successful products deployed was a line of bacteria created by Micro-Bac International Inc., a company under contract with NASA. Developed as a way to purify water in closed systems, such as that on the International Space Station, the company developed a strain of bacteria that needs only a little bit of light to function. The bacteria work by breaking down certain components in oil.

    Contaminated Groundwater Remediation
    NASA developed the technology, notably, to deal with the pollution around its launchpads at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which had become significantly toxic from fuel and other byproducts of multiple rocket launches. EZVI’s effectiveness is limited to a specific category of contaminants known as DNAPLs, but that still makes the technology applicable to thousands of sites in the country.
    Rocket-Powered Parachutes

    March 30, 2011 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Qev

    To those who question the immediate practical value of such fundamental research...I ask: of what immediate practical use is a newborn baby...and does this lack of immediate practical usefulness make each infant valueless to society?

    March 30, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheSkeptic

      Can't argue with that logic....even though I have 4 beautiful kids. I get your point though, and it is well taken.

      March 31, 2011 at 12:26 am | Report abuse |
  3. Mark

    Once all the photos have been taken, a Google Mercury application would be awesome!

    March 31, 2011 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  4. yuck

    I guess we should rather be spending the NASA money on providing fertility treatments to illegal aliens so we can have millions of mouths to feed that so nothing to support themselves. When we reach 20 billion people on this planet.. we will be more like a colony of insects... feeding on each other to survive.

    March 31, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  5. richard b.

    another rock pile...seriously for whatever reason we are alone ...don`t know why yet ...not religious but there is something very strange about our existance

    March 31, 2011 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  6. isaac

    This is not real. G-D only created one planet. Totally made up.

    March 31, 2011 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
    • just me

      and everyone knows that one is flat!

      March 31, 2011 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
  7. chichi

    How does this help to thousands if not millions of americans in need of food, education, clothing,housing? Why don't we behave like intelligent beings and spend money on the living and not something that has taken billions of dollars to discover and is just that.... A discovery. Please people wake up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 31, 2011 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
    • just me

      ever heard of SCIENCE???

      March 31, 2011 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Lone

      Stop being an unwashed mass and get educated. All those problems have little to nothing to do with NASA projects. Why should all the benefits that science give us on a daily basis be taken away to help people who (in most recent examples) bought houses they couldn't really afford, or overcome economic downturns created by corporate greed, or skyrocketed and unaffordable healthcare costs by malpractices suits who serve no one but the single individual affected and lawyers? Kill off lobbyists, cut the fat from the defense industry and foreign interests, then talk about how NASA spends its tiny budget.

      March 31, 2011 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
  8. CG

    Mercury is beautiful..................NOT!

    March 31, 2011 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
  9. David

    There is no such thing as mercury! It's not in the Bible. So It doesn't existn

    March 31, 2011 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  10. egore

    Just amazes me that PPhillip didn't know (or did he?) That @Zazz 7's "poem" was not an original but rather lyrics from a popular song. Oh well, but no great thing really.

    March 31, 2011 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
  11. ML

    Again, I call BS on NASA. They could have released the color images yesterday. Apparently, they needed an extra day to properly edit any "weirdness" out of the color versions before releasing them to the general public.

    The only reason they posted this today was because so many people pointed to the fact that there's no such thing as black & white digital photography. This thing about separate RGB filters sounds absurd.

    Hey, why not just point the Hubble space telescope at Mercury? I'm sure you'll get some very good images from that.. and in Living Color too! Or is that just too simple for them? 😛

    March 31, 2011 at 12:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      I'm sorry you don't believe in reality ML.

      March 31, 2011 at 4:31 am | Report abuse |
  12. the satellite tht took the pic

    this is not the same pic that was on cnn homepage

    March 31, 2011 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
  13. Leenj

    Americans: The most wasteful and dummiest tax players in the universe!

    March 31, 2011 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
  14. brownacres

    I look forward to Russia providing us these pics in the future....and maybe some from THEIR space station, thanks to the IDIOTS in our government shutting NASA down

    March 31, 2011 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
  15. d m r

    You folks who comment so many times are idiots and have no life. At most comment 1 or 2 times and get on with your life. You are truly sad geek nerd losers when you spend your day arguing with strangers.

    March 31, 2011 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
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