First image of Mercury from orbit released
March 29th, 2011
10:57 PM ET

First image of Mercury from orbit released

NASA released an image of the planet Mercury on Tuesday, the first obtained from a spacecraft orbiting the solar system's innermost planet.

The image is the first of many expected to come from the Messenger probe, the first space mission to orbit the planet closest to the sun. The Messenger spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and after flybys of Earth, Venus and Mercury, started its historic orbit around Mercury on March 17.

The dominant rayed crater in the upper portion of the image is Debussy, according to NASA. The smaller crater, Matabei, with its dark rays, is visible to the west of Debussy. The bottom portion of the full image, which can be seen here,  is near Mercury's south pole and includes a region of Mercury's surface not previously seen by spacecraft.

Over the next three days, Messenger will acquire 1,185 more 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 Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the Messenger spacecraft and manages the Discovery-class mission for NASA. Messenger stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging.

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soundoff (582 Responses)
  1. Dan

    Space is lame. If we dint have a space program we would have all the same equipment and computers and yes even velcro. Space brought us rocket technology and we dont really even need that.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  2. balls...its called singularity

    pretty soon we will reach the point of singularity where technology is so rampantly and exponentially growing that we could have the ability to change everything including our definition of mortality. in less than a century we will be able to create ai's that are infinately smarter than humans and some crossbreads where humans could tap into this forum of knowledge, we'll ahve red blood cell sized machines and computers in our blood stream fighting infection and aging and everything else, we'd be able to stay under water for hours, live for centuries and run marathons without becoming tired or out of breathe...if this is in our future (if it's allowed by other human's) we have the potential to do literally anything, f#$% colonizing on other planets, think colonizing in different galaxies.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Randy Nash

    Cool picture. I think we need to explore. If they didn't have the explorer spirit centuries a go in the way they did, Things might have turned out a lot different. I agree it's a tough choice to make, with all the war, poverty, etc that's happening. But this has been going on for as long as we have been around. Maybe one day with space exploration we can help to eliminate some of those tihings, if not diminish them.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Alfrodull

    I can not believe the level of irrelevance and stupidity of some of the comments under this post...
    I am sad that the future of manned spaceflight is uncertain at this point, and whomever says NASA is spending a lot of taxpayer money for these missions I would like to remind everyone that only half a penny on a tax dollar goes to NASA. That is the entire funding of everything and anything that NASA does, HALF a PENNY for each DOLLAR of taxes we pay. So I am looking forward to seeing the next batch of photos from the MESSENGER mission.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Cosmic Guru

    You can find the sounds of the Solar System at the internet site called TranscendentalTones. In the form of beautiful artistic impressions, which are based on the German astrologer Johannes Keppler's observations and calculations that date from the 17th century.

    March 30, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Fredrico

    I just find it hard to fathom, that we are living in the 21ist century, that popular science shows being aired on the Discovery Channel and the other major networks are talking about humans possibly curing cancer, cloning dinosaurs, building spacecraft that can travel through wormholes, building an elevator into space from the Earth's surface, colonizing the moon and mars, developing a form of energy that requires next to no resources and has nonexistent pollution, just to scratch the surface to name a few things they say are in our near future, and here we are just getting a first image of Mercury, which looks a lot like a picture of the moon, delivered to the public in all it's black and white glory. You would think by now at least the first 4 or 5 planets would have something like Google Earth to view them with.

    March 30, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. fewa


    March 30, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. enjoibeing

    ALIENS! AHH. very cool picture

    March 30, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. fox loves angel

    I love space because it is full of misery.I feel human being is like a peanut when compare with space.

    March 30, 2011 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |

    Oh, you're one of those treehuggers I've read about.

    March 31, 2011 at 3:26 am | Report abuse |
  11. bruce franklin

    What is on Mercury we can use?

    March 31, 2011 at 3:49 am | Report abuse |
  12. riyas

    It's photoshoped! go to to find the source

    March 31, 2011 at 5:46 am | Report abuse |
  13. Pia

    wow, looks impressive.

    March 31, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  14. pastelmoon

    You can find a different pic of Mercury online that shows the bottom of the planet as well. I can't wait until more photos start coming in.

    March 31, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  15. Tommy

    Mind control is a beautiful thing for the illuminati. You are hoodwinked beyond your wildest mind controlled 3d imagination. Nasa is simply a very expensive elaborate cover program to make your sedated mind think it's going to take a long time to get anywhere, when the secret gov is already there and back a 100 times over and then some. There is nothing you can name they can't already do. They can get to the moon in an hour, they have bases on mars. yada yada yada. Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz. Now go back to sleep my little pretties. ZZzzzzzzzz...

    March 31, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
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