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. pongidae rex

    We are going to run out of oil at about the same time the global population hits 10 thousand million people.

    Guess what we use to grow ALL of our food? Oil.

    Enjoy your SUVs, murdering genocidal slimewads. You are murduring billions of people in the not distant future.

    March 30, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  2. Tony Herndon

    It's riddled with craters hundreds of them. Amazing! Guess the earth will look the same, when life is gone from here too some day. From the number of craters there, it could be any day we get hit with a big rock. That's a lot of craters.

    March 30, 2011 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  3. Droopy

    Hey guys.... enjoy your satellite television, your cell phones, and your GPS system.... but remember, you wouldn't have any of that if it wasn't for NASA.

    Now what was that about "wasting money"??

    March 30, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • bryan buchanan

      lol wasting money keeping them alive...hahah

      March 30, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Greasy Pickle

      I think you mean we can 'thank DARPA' not NASA for all those mentioned. Peace BIYATCH.

      March 30, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mr. Jetson

    I say we use Mercury for nuke testing. Let's drop off all of our illegal aliens first!!

    March 30, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • tater-roy

      HELL YEAH!!!!!!!

      March 30, 2011 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Greasy Pickle

      Actually Myth Busters proved that to be false, they are susceptible to radiation.

      March 30, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Kate

    My daughter (8) is turning my into a space junkie. She will be thrilled to keep up with this expedition and to view the photos.

    March 30, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  6. George Jetson

    I say we use Mercury for nuke testing. Let's drop off all our illegal aliens first.

    March 30, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. Kate

    My daughter (8) is turning me into a space junkie. She will be thrilled to keep up with this expedition and to view the photos.

    March 30, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  8. Ron White

    "You can't fix stupid".

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


      Yourr'e right.But you can sure kick it in the ass and tell it the right thing to do!

      March 30, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  9. its true

    This country is going to the crapper I tell you....frickn money for wars and nasa to explore a planet we can't even live on.......what the hellllll.......I'm moveing to healthcare,good hashhhh and thin woman...not like the cows in the states lmao.....

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

      Yea but you sound like a fatazz freeloader you'd fit right in with them canucks

      March 30, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • wsj

      its true, do the world a favor and step out in front of a bus.

      March 30, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ravy Mean

    Climate Change 🙁 !

    March 30, 2011 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  11. Robert Chretien

    Eh, moving to mercury is impossible and takes light years to get to it, duh. Plus its super hot over there. SMH Think America! Damn

    March 30, 2011 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • bryan buchanan

      hahah it takes light ...years to reach mercury??? using what physics? lol make sure you know what your talking about before you post takes 8 mins for light from the sun to reach the earth. so mercury being closer to the earth then the sun = less distance = less time... light speed is fast in our solar system. its only when you look out side the solar system that that the speed of light seems slow because of the vast distances.

      March 30, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • the satellite tht took the pic

      actually if we moved at the speed of light we would make it to mercury in less than 6 minutes......

      March 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • the satellite tht took the pic

      with that said i agree with bryan... i wish we knew the exact timing though

      March 30, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. its true

    Can we have a macdonals restaurant on mercury?

    March 30, 2011 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  13. steve harnack

    How true! Please let's wait until all of the gods have died. We don't need to give them a free ride to other planets!

    March 30, 2011 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  14. helenecha

    In Mercury, crater is Debussy and small crater is Matabei, right? Thanks for telling.

    March 30, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • its true

      What on earth are you talking about???are you from mars?

      March 30, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  15. thereader

    you people have the funniest comments...the comments are more interesting than the article to read them...keep me laughing!!!

    March 30, 2011 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
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