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. Greasy Pickle

    Science is so valuable to the global masses and everyone on here turns it into a joke, well I all hope you laugh when they can use this data to answer questions that have puzzled mankind from it's beginning 3 Billion years ago as apes. Questions like; If a bug hits your windshield would it have the guts to do it again?

    March 30, 2011 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
    • SDN

      There exists a huge body of evidence that sentient beings represent a minuscule segment of the fauna on this planet. Published trends strongly suggest that majority of bipeds aspire to be wealth managers, investment advisors, or other examples of parasitic, non-productive organisms capable only of the most basic attempts at literary, or other, expressions of creativity. Science brought us here – pickups and SUV's will take us back.

      March 30, 2011 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • SDN

      Let's go ahead and add cellphones and botox to the list of likely means-of-transportation back to the intellectual Stone Age. Any other suggestions? Love to hear them.

      March 30, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  2. LOL

    You people whining about the cost are ridiculous. Let's do a little math. Cost of the mission = $427 million. Population of the US = 307 million. So would you rather have had a $1.39 tax cut instead? If you wanna cry about something costing too much maybe you should look at the US military budget.

    March 30, 2011 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Planet Bob

      Not to mention the fact that every dollar that has been given to NASA has had double the return, thanks to their research and development department. The way I see it, a picture of a planet is just a fringe benefit.

      March 30, 2011 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
  3. Harry C

    What's your favorite planet?

    Mines the sun. Always has been. I like it because its like the King of Planets.

    March 30, 2011 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
  4. ron

    when we launched this probe back in 04, we didnt have the hd capabilities we have now. 6 and half years, and 40 billion miles later, we finally reached mercury. amazing how far this planet is from us

    March 30, 2011 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
  5. countryboy

    Venus and mars are among the starz

    March 30, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  6. Capo77

    Nice! Start packing up! This could be our new home since we destroyed this one already....

    March 30, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Woody

      Better bring your sunscreen, since Mercury is the closest planet to the sun.

      March 30, 2011 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      Mars is a much more likely candidate. And we're nowhere near destroying the Earth either, btw.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff Wilson

      Well..since Mercury does not have an atmosphere to speak of...not sure where you plan to pitch your tent.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Greasy Pickle

      I will pitch my tent in my sweat pants underneath my space suit.

      March 30, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greasy Pickle

      dang that was supposed to be a reply to an earlier comment. I see it didn't reply.

      March 30, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Max power

      Don't worry. The Earth will be fine long after you are gone.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Alenix

      Oh, you're one of those treehuggers I've read about. Just take your meds and don't worry about a thing.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Capo, you wasted electricity with that post.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Hugo

      Don't have to worry about sunscreen or melanoma there, the daytime temperature on Mercury is 232F so you'll burn to a crisp on your first day.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • moe smith

      do you work hard at being an idiot or are you naturally retarded?

      March 30, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      How much money was spent on this? hopefully the 1,185 or 75,000 other pictures will be in colour! lol

      March 30, 2011 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      Color is relative in scientific terms. If what you mean is color in terms of what the human eye interprets, I disagree. If what you mean is color in terms of capturing multiple wavelengths of light to maximize scientific use and discovery, I agree.

      March 30, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. antonio

    money well spent. it is a must we find out what is going on outter space, beyond our realm

    March 30, 2011 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Sterling Archer

      Oh, well since you disapprove it must be bad. Because, after all, you are an authority of what is worthy spending and what isn't.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      Guess what- space IS our realm. The sun is what keeps life going on this rock.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • nickle

      i would love to go to outer space it would be awesome

      March 30, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • sue

      hello i love space and would love to go

      March 30, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • DHinOH

      How come some assume antonio is being facetious? That might be the case, but it's kind of hard to tell in a simple forum post...

      March 30, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Dimitri Seneca Snowden

      "Money well spent" is relative to the spender. Though I agree there are many things in the universe, that if unlocked, could provide more understanding to our planet r, when I am faced with our current position as humans, I think we should spend money relative to establishing parity for humans and our environment.

      March 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • WookaWooka

      Spaceships are neat.

      March 30, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • tom valmer

      Money spent... if it was not for the space program, we would not have microwave technology, aatellites, GPS, cell phones, medical devices and many other life-enhancing and life-saving technology innovations... let alone mechanisms that may one day prevent world-wide extinctions... anyone who thinks money spent this way is a waste are demonstrating what limited knowledge they have on the subject.

      March 30, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Tom, I couldn't agree with you more. What many people don't seem to realize is that these programs are not just about space exploration, but also about the creation of new technology which opens the doors to so many possibilities. Of course we don't really care about Mercury, but we care about what we learn and can take away from these technological advances.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • sergio

      and this is money well spent?

      March 30, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Clifford Kauffman

      Does anyone know the quickest way to get from New York to Cleveland during rush hour?

      March 30, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • madderkayne

      Well apparently word selection is critical or at least there are alot of people who are critical of word usage.
      I agree money well spent. Maybe the people who run the economy should take a page from NASA and their book "Getting the most bang for the buck" they seem to accomplish quite a few wonderful things given what little budget they have. Just think if Space exploration was privatized sooner and worked in conjunction with NASA like the Armed forces does with companies like Boeing and Northrop/Grumman etc. we'd already be mining Helium3 from the moon and working to diversify our energy production.

      March 30, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Busted

      Why do republicans hate knowledge?

      March 30, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • James R. Clawson

      Wow it's simply amazing how we can send out a space craft from earth and have it start orbiting another planet after being over 6 years in outer space!

      March 30, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • leadinglight

      I don't think the technology to live on other planets will be ready any time soon.

      March 31, 2011 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • hennli

      hi it is awesome to see mercury

      March 31, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Joseph Anonie

      I fell like we are in outer space sometime without the spaceship.Should you have an open seat put my name on it.I can go any day of the week.
      Joseph Anonie

      March 31, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Ryan that is the dumbest thing i ever heard. " because every lifeform on this rock is eventually doomed unless they leave. The sun will destroy life on this planet eventually, without our help. We MUST spread out to other planets if we are to survive." Lets think this through????? We spread out to other planets untill their are no more left and then what? After billions of years life will end or maybe we will meet some aliens!!!

      April 1, 2011 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |
  8. GooGooGaaGaa

    The spacecraft windshield is broken.

    March 30, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
    • ronny

      Initially I also thought so.

      March 30, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Devid

      darn space birds...

      March 30, 2011 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Durrr

      LOL those cracks are on the planet, but it certainly does look like a comet nailed the windshield, or a junebug

      March 30, 2011 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • bob

      You don't look at space photos very much do you?

      March 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      You guys must be either insecure, or just plain stupid.
      It was a joke...

      March 30, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. TrekkieGT

    As for Canadians complaining – we'll have Nunavut.

    March 30, 2011 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  10. Dsn63

    Of the terrestrial planets Mercury is the least likely to have had life on it.The probabilty of us ever being able to colonize another planet is very very low.We need to focus on ways to make earth better.We should go back in history 200 years and see how the planet was then and then start correcting the mistakes we've made that has turned earth into an eviromental cesspool.

    March 30, 2011 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      The mistake is more than a billion more people on the earth now. A little late to fix that one.

      March 30, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Joshua Lane

      You are exactly right about the damage to our earth. We live without reagrd to our own planet. However I would like very much to see our country continue to explore the solar system and even colonize mars and "seed" the planet to cause oxygen to form.

      March 30, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • ronny

      You are absolutely correct.

      March 30, 2011 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
    • EWGuy

      "The probabilty of us ever being able to colonize another planet is very very low"

      and yet you tell us to go back 200 years (which, by the way, was in the middle of the "mini-ice-age").

      People 200 years ago would have thought visiting the moon was impossible. So why is colonizing a planet impossible? You just want me and my offspring to stay earthbound and stick adhering to your type of nonsense for eternity!

      March 30, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • dude

      I thought I saw a Starbucks in that pic of Mercury. hmm

      March 30, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Gary is right

      Gary is right–the problem is that we have so many people now and everyone wants food (food production accounts for a huge percentage of methane and carbon dioxide emission), and everyone in third world countries want to industrialize, and as we know from the 19th and early 20th century, industrialization does nothing except produce smog...

      March 30, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • SDN

      @Gary: Might want to do a little reading occasionally – now near 7 billion here on the Earth. Credibility in doubt when one is off by a factor of 7.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Claus

      Yeah, let's continue to explore. First we take the earth, then we take the rest. After that we can complain about how we destroyed the galaxy...

      March 30, 2011 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      I hope you're wrong, because every lifeform on this rock is eventually doomed unless they leave. The sun will destroy life on this planet eventually, without our help. We MUST spread out to other planets if we are to survive.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • passerby

      Space exploration has resulted in many technological break throughs, not just some pictures of distant plaents. What we learn in the process can be applied back on earth and everyday life.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Fox

      Going back in history to explore is also being done. There are probably more archaeologists and anthropoligists in the world than there are people studying space exploration. T3chsupport that was an awesome response.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Hugo

      Correct mistakes like the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq 1, Iraq 2 etc? Good luck Ghandi.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • sanjosemike

      Dsn63 said: "Gary is right–the problem is that we have so many people now and everyone wants food (food production accounts for a huge percentage of methane and carbon dioxide emission), and everyone in third world countries want to industrialize, and as we know from the 19th and early 20th century, industrialization does nothing except produce smog..."

      sanjosemike responds: Maybe so. But do YOU want to return to a "hunter/gatherer" world of no modern medicine or technology? I should remind you that this kind of economy produces a very short, brutal life. OK, if YOU want to go back to that. But don't speak for me. I want to be able to go to a (modern) dentist and doctor to get treated. I want to be able to get food without having to put my life on the line every day.

      "Hyper" environmentalism is a great model...until you actually have to start living it. Then it s*cks.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Heaven forbid that we have ANYONE studying the universe and specifically our own solar system! We need 100% of the population of the planet studying what we did or didn't do to our environment.
      We don't need to be able to predict warming and cooling trends at all!
      We can simply huddle in a cave and say "God willed it to be so".

      March 30, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • bk753

      Dsn63 is correct in a couple of major ways. It's not likely that we're all moving to another planet anytime soon, but even if we WERE, it wouldn't be the torridly inhospitable Mercury. You wanna spend $$ and explore space, I'm all for it, within reason. But this isn't Mars or even Venus. Doubtful that much of what we learn studying Mercury is going to be helpful to us in the next couple of generations. You want more research of Mars, I'm in. But exhaustive studies of Mercury seems like a considerable waste of time and money. Just my $.02

      March 30, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • WookaWooka

      I agree with Gary (accept that he was way off on the figure by several billion)... I vote we legalize murder for one day world wide. You can kill who ever annoys you or tries to kill you first. We'll see how many people are left after that. Good news is we'll have a lot mroe room/food/job openings!

      March 30, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      Exploring the other planets is important to our understanding of the beginnings of the solar system and even further back to the beginning of the Universe. We can land have earned much about our own world from studying the other planets, including Mercury. Take an astronomy 101 class and you'll realize how important these things are.

      March 30, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • SGW

      I wouldn't call the earth an environmental cesspool.

      March 30, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Llewdor

      It would have been cheaper to set up a permanent base on Mars than it has been to build and maintain the International Space Station. Planetary colonisation isn't terribly expensive if you pick planets that harmour useful resources.

      March 30, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • karlotious

      I thought we were beyond black and white photos at this point hah

      March 30, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. SeanNJ

    Give me a second while I load up Google's Moron-to-English translator...

    March 30, 2011 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Lecter, Ph D.

      Don't sell yourself short., SeanNJ. We can understand you without a translator.

      March 30, 2011 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • SeanNJ

      Would've made more sense if someone hadn't removed the post to which I had replied.

      March 30, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • tater-roy

      ive never heard of that! is it new??

      March 30, 2011 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • SDN

      Please post the link. Please.

      March 30, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  12. its true

    Dam I misspelled them

    March 30, 2011 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  13. Dr. Lecter, Ph D.

    Launched in 2004? This must also be Bush's fault!
    Or, will people say "we woulda been in Alpha Centuari by now if Gore were in charge!"

    March 30, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Defender

      Haven't you anything more relevant to say, doctor?

      March 30, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • SpacePhD

      Actually the mission would have been accepted by NASA during the Clinton Administration. It takes a LONG time go proposing a mission to Launching. A friend of mine built one of the instruments for his thesis and he graduated in 2002 and started on it before Bush was in office.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Hugo

      Remember that the president who started the space race was a democrat. All republicans do is start wars.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Joshua Ludd

      Yeah, what ever happened to Bush's wonderfully ill-timed attempt at being Kennedy-esque "we're going to Mars!" plan? I guess it got swallowed up by his far stronger dedication to Mars the god of war.

      March 30, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Spunky DerWondermonkey

      I heard that Al Gore invented Alpha Centauri. – Sure, it was a little before he invented the internet; but make no mistake about it – he invented it.

      March 30, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sparky101

      Hugo, you mean like Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Truman, Kennedy and Obama? Ludd, it was Bill who said he was excited to stand on the same ground that Mars stood on.

      March 30, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      To Hugo....Democrats didn't "start the space race" as you put it...It was a direct result of the Cold War with USSR. Nothing but saber rattling and trying to prove who has the bigger penis. Who started the Cold War? Get your facts straight buddy. Republicans aren't the enemy. All politicians are equally crooked, democrats and republicans alike.
      This isn't a political issue...this is a scientific endeavor to gain knowledge of our universe to learn valuable information to help us learn more about our own planet.
      And by the matter what planet we attempt to colonize of the 4 four inner terrestrial planets, they will all be engulfed by the sun as it dies (this assumes you don't want to live on Jupiter or any of the other gaseous planets). The current yellow sun we enjoy and love so much has a diameter of roughly 1.4 million kilometers. As it dies it will begin to grow and become a Red Giant which has a diameter of roughly 600 million kilometers. The orbit of Mars is currently about 230 kilometers from the center of the sun, well within the range of the radius of a Red Giant. This Red Giant will consume all the planets in the inner-solar system before exploding into a supernova destroying out solar system. But not to takes millions of years for a sun to die and follow the path from our tiny little sun to a Red Giant and subsequent Supernova. We have time to prepare. Have a nice day!

      March 30, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheThinker

      @hugo: WW2: Roosevelt, Korea: Trumman, Vietnam: Kennedy, nuclear arms race: Kennedy, Mogadishu, Yugoslavia: Clinton, Libya: Obama. Carter didn't get us in a war, though Iran attacked sovereign US Territory and held US hostages: an act of war. Democrats... pffft.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. wiarumas

    Just for reference people, this planet (the closest to the sun) is 800 degrees during the day and -270 at night time.

    March 30, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  15. To Idiots Like You

    No it is just a place to send dumb fu**s like you

    March 30, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
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