Spacecraft enters Mercury orbit, NASA says
March 17th, 2011
11:01 PM ET

Spacecraft enters Mercury orbit, NASA says

NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft on Thursday night became the first to achieve orbit around Mercury, the space agency announced.

Engineers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory confirmed MESSENGER achieved orbit at 9:10 p.m. ET, NASA said.

Aboard the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging spacecraft are seven science instruments, fortified against the intense heat and cold near the solar system's innermost planet. They will retrieve data on Mercury's geochemistry, geophysics, geologic history, atmosphere, magnetosphere and plasma environment, according to NASA.

According to National Geographic, temperatures on Mercury's surface can reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit (430 Celsius). Because the planet has no atmosphere to retain that heat, nighttime temperatures can drop to minus 280 degrees (minus 170 degrees Celsius).

The instruments will be turned on and checked out beginning March 23 and, on April 4, the primary science phase of the mission will begin, NASA said in a statement.

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Filed under: Mercury • Solar System • Space
soundoff (142 Responses)
  1. xpat

    The smallest planet deserves the smallest article. No need to waste ad space with pesky facts and knowledge. I'm not sure why they didn't stop at the headline. I also love how they did enough "investigative journalism" to go on National Geographic web site and pilfer their info.

    March 18, 2011 at 3:00 am | Report abuse |
  2. sas

    All that you say does not matter, we will all be dead soon, end of world, read the bible, read

    March 18, 2011 at 3:18 am | Report abuse |
  3. slam

    And on the 8th day God created Mercury just for fun, and he did sayeth "This shall be the planet of the Weebles, because it is so small that it gets wobbled about by the other gravitational influences, and I can create as many big words as I want to". And He looked upon his creation and did say "It is good, but I'm not really sure what to do with it, so let's just start over".

    March 18, 2011 at 4:01 am | Report abuse |
  4. lops

    They should have mentioned that the probe was launched in August of 2004. And the distance and speed it travelled to Mercury would be nice to know as well.

    March 18, 2011 at 4:12 am | Report abuse |
  5. david

    I agree with richard tho this has been very entertaining. I just can't see why you all can't embrace the marvel of the universe and whatever knowledge we receive from exploration. If you can't keep from arguing and moaning about your own opinions then maybe a little soul searching is needed. That first smile may hurt a little but it gets easier. Have a little faith

    March 18, 2011 at 4:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. Elvis

    And now, the end is near...and so I face the final curtain...I did it my way...Thank You. Thank you very much.

    March 18, 2011 at 4:59 am | Report abuse |
  7. SpacemanSpiff

    What I don't understand is....the Messenger spacecraft was in excellent positions during its many orbits to get very close views of the Earth's Lagrange points. Why didn't they have the spacecraft check those out?
    It was even in a good spot to check out the spot opposite the Earth (another Lagrange point)...was there nothing to see?

    March 18, 2011 at 6:23 am | Report abuse |
  8. Al Dvorin

    Elvis has left the building

    March 18, 2011 at 6:29 am | Report abuse |
  9. TmOa

    Time to quit acting like screaming monkeys! Let's all fly into space instead! Hitch a ride on the nearest UFO! Quick! C'mon, I know some of you have thumbs big enough to flag down a passing spacecraft! Pull 'em outa yer aszes already!
    Gotta get off this planet! Too many crazies like me here! Ha ha ha ha!

    March 18, 2011 at 6:31 am | Report abuse |
  10. PaintSaulSinnemota

    Someone forgot their meds again.

    March 18, 2011 at 6:37 am | Report abuse |
  11. Cesar


    March 18, 2011 at 7:38 am | Report abuse |
  12. Tanya

    We could have done this to every planet if we had bothered to think outside the Cold War mentality that still runs some things around here. Forced ignorance is reprehensible. Ignorant people are not likely to act wisely or knowledgeably.
    And it does not help to keep people poor and malnourished, for they will raise kids that have poor development, making any problems worse.
    Where is the money going? Where it usually does. And it kills the goose with ignorance. O unhappy people!

    March 18, 2011 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
  13. Cesar

    Is that right Tanya? When did you think this up? You are a Tea-Partier-no doubt!!!

    March 18, 2011 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
    • lool

      Since when have Tea-baggers ever cared about the poor and giving people a good education? You should read that post again, Salad-boy!

      March 18, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Amelia

      Yeah, she doesn't seem to be a liberal or conservative, just a typical unaffiliated lunatic.

      March 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Cesar

    @Amelia: Ayah!

    March 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ed Bailey

    What amazes me is the ability of our brainiacs to get scientific instruments to survive in that inferno.the heat and radiation level is pretty tough.fantastic is all I can say!

    March 18, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
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