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. Richie

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

    March 30, 2011 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
    • prgmgr

      What on earth makes you assume that most of the posts are from the USA?

      March 30, 2011 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Lecter, Ph D.

      Richie: thanks for reinforcing your statement by writing; "Know i know [sic]." YOU must be from the USA.

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

      Richie, Know I know? You mean now I know? Way to prove that you fit right in with everyone else by your own statement.

      March 30, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  2. john

    cool

    March 30, 2011 at 7:46 am | Report abuse |
  3. Dom

    I HATE THIS CLASS

    March 30, 2011 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
  4. Tomi

    I want to see something like stargate Universe in reality. That would be cool. You can tell America has a sad excuse for an educational system, just by half the comments here. Yee Haw Red neck, Hop on dat truck billy, lets go dem huntin son. Yuck yuck, Yeeee haaaw.

    March 30, 2011 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. Nikki

    I knew going straight to the comments section on this one would give me a much needed morning laugh....

    March 30, 2011 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
  6. TheBossIsOut

    I still say we're living in the Matrix and the real world is flat.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
  7. Gary

    I'm convienced that knowhere else can man live except on earth which means liberals will have to adjust their imagination to live in reality with conservatives.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
  8. Robert

    What do you expect- Pentagon budget about 650bil NASA 18bil... most of comments are good humor! thanks guys

    March 30, 2011 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
  9. Chad Buss

    What a waste of money. We know it is burnt to a crisp and full of craters. I don't give a rip if it has ice deep in craters. How much did we waste on this mission when we could have put it to use on more important domestic issues? Use a telescope for crying out loud.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
  10. Andy

    I'm crazy bout my Mercury.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
  11. harry

    Would you eat the planet mercury if it were made of ribs? I would. Hell, I'd come back for seconds.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
  12. Cosmonaut Dmitry

    This is the dark side of the moon people...... Any spacecraft that close to the sun would have all its capabilities disabled by the heat and solar flare activity.

    TOTAL B.S.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Tinman916

      Why are people complaining of half a billion when we have corruption throughout our government. We spent 5,000 per office chair for a government building because some idiot in power had gambling debts.

      March 30, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  13. warlord

    Good picture.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  14. Bob

    I tell ya what,there sure are some idiots on here.Knowledge,spelling....mostly "Lack" of knowledge.No wonder this country is in the shape it's in.Dumb is just everywhere.....

    March 30, 2011 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  15. Lycidas

    It'll be pretty awesome when we can get some good readings on the ice filled craters.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
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