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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Filed under: Space
soundoff (582 Responses)
  1. Major Tom

    This could be Barry Bonds back according to his ex.

    March 30, 2011 at 7:08 am | Report abuse |
  2. MassiveMarbles

    Scientifically....its an astounding wealth of information which helps us to understand the environment around us. Monetarily...sure it costs money – what doesn't? – besides money is man's primitive way of rationing resources.
    Philosophically...we must reach out to the stars if we are to survive as a species.
    Moronically... idiots will never understand this concept, they only grasp things which guarantee their immediate satisfaction.

    March 30, 2011 at 7:08 am | Report abuse |
  3. Man in the Moon

    I think we should all get together and have a space party. Does anybody want to plan it? Eh...I mean planet.

    March 30, 2011 at 7:13 am | Report abuse |
  4. Greasy Pickle

    I have seen this image before, it was in the dentist office in Greenwich NJ, I think it was an x-ray Gary Dell'Abate's teeth.

    March 30, 2011 at 7:13 am | Report abuse |
  5. Chris

    Big deal..get a shot of Bin Laden and ill be impressed!!!

    March 30, 2011 at 7:13 am | Report abuse |
  6. Dallas Snell

    It looks like a used dart board.

    March 30, 2011 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
  7. Man in the Moon

    Let's all go to Mars to get more candy bars.

    March 30, 2011 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
  8. Canadian Man

    You Americans are all alike. You don't want to pay taxes but you don't want to have a bill when you go to the hospital. You fight for your rights to carry a weapon but cry over people getting shot over nothing. Granted, these missions cost a lot of money in a time when there's none to spare but they are essential to the continuation of the human race.

    March 30, 2011 at 7:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Major Tom

      Does Canada even have a space program? How is it the US responsibility for the entire human race? We need our guns to protect us from illegal aliens from the North, particularly the stupid ones.

      March 30, 2011 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Razey

      Canada and puerto rico are the biggest leeches on the US!!! F Canada!!!

      March 30, 2011 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
    • American Knowhow

      Richie

      What a bunch of idiot posts, Know i know why the USA is in this kind of shape

      Really? You think a few dozen posts are representative of the USA? Interesting analysis. "Know I know" what your IQ is.

      March 30, 2011 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
    • prgmgr

      As a Canadian, whose taxes do not support space exploration, you have no right to complain about American's complaining. And to suggest that Americans "are all alike" is about as absurd as the partisanship experience by such an "alike" group of people.

      March 30, 2011 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
    • American Knowhow

      Canadian Man

      You Americans are all alike.

      lol. How insightful. Wait for it... You Canadians are all alike.

      March 30, 2011 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
    • duh

      Haha your government collapsed. Drink a warm beer and forget about it, eh? Curling is on.

      March 30, 2011 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
  9. Arod

    Prime real estate, they don't have to clear the trees.

    March 30, 2011 at 7:26 am | Report abuse |
  10. Haley

    Has anyone seen my comet? He ran away and I don't expexct to see him for years

    March 30, 2011 at 7:27 am | Report abuse |
  11. its true

    Sweet now we can send all the illegal aliens there...lol and fat chicks...oh shoot that more than half of woman in the states lmao

    March 30, 2011 at 7:27 am | Report abuse |
  12. Matthew FInlay

    Hello Mercury.

    March 30, 2011 at 7:32 am | Report abuse |
  13. Ramdomact

    Amazing how many people take it for granted that we can zoom by planets and take pictures like this and then make smart a$$ comments. Most of those commenting probably won't pass a high school entrance exam, much less go and build (or actually just pull out of the toy box) a spacecraft other than the water rockets we all played with when we were kids.

    March 30, 2011 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Well, I sort of agree... but on the other hand, no matter what story CNN posts, you can be assured of about an hour of entertainment just reading the comments... my favorite one so far: "Dude, I can totally see my house from here..."
      Come on... admit it... you laughed...

      March 30, 2011 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |
  14. steveo2504

    I see stupid people.

    March 30, 2011 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
  15. LadyL

    Amazing! Thank you Messenger.

    March 30, 2011 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
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