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. ficheye

    From these comments it's pretty clear that people need to brush up on basic astronomy. Let's start with the basic 'the earth is not flat' discussion....

    March 30, 2011 at 4:52 am | Report abuse |
    • krozareq


      March 30, 2011 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
  2. Captain_Colossal

    we should colonize mercury

    there would be nothing but hot chicks

    March 30, 2011 at 4:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Mars

      Try the veal...he'll be here all week folks.

      March 30, 2011 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  3. Captain_Colossal

    how come the pic makes me feel like im looking at an orange and the white crater in the middle is like the underneath little plug on the orange?

    March 30, 2011 at 4:55 am | Report abuse |
  4. Sarah Palin

    It's clear that the British have beat us there. I mean, look at all the crop circles!

    March 30, 2011 at 4:55 am | Report abuse |
  5. spend it

    Spock, this is expensive. Print more money.

    March 30, 2011 at 4:57 am | Report abuse |


    March 30, 2011 at 5:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Joshua

      This is the stupidest thing I've ever read. Ever. And I read a Sarah Palin speech once. I feel dumber for having read the diarrhea that floats and bubbles in your cranium.

      March 30, 2011 at 5:52 am | Report abuse |
    • pedro

      Really? first of all, you are talking about a show where actors are in their underwear and touching each other, really? secound, why are you reading this if u think its stupid, also its golf not basketball.
      p.s. who watches wrestlemania, oh wait i know, a bunch of wifebeaters

      March 30, 2011 at 7:24 am | Report abuse |
    • hollydolly

      Lol... fake entertainment, like jersey shore... for the dumb folks who have not a bit of common sense. Flip it to the learning channel, or maybe the public accesses education hour.

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

      ^ Trolled by wrestling so funny!

      March 30, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. Osama Bin Laden


    March 30, 2011 at 5:27 am | Report abuse |
  8. Joshua Lorenzo Newett

    THis is great news! We have people going without water and heat in US of A, people living in cardboard boxes, but we have shots of Mercury! Probably worth every penny of he billions that went into it.

    March 30, 2011 at 5:31 am | Report abuse |
    • ash

      Why is there always some idiot who says something like this? Quit acting like exploration and discovery aren't important. Grow up.

      March 30, 2011 at 5:43 am | Report abuse |
    • JBK

      There's nothing stopping you from pitching in to remedy those problems. The real culprit is Big War, Inc., the military industrial complex President Eisenhower warned about 52 years ago....

      March 30, 2011 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
    • sciguy73

      You spent more money on potato chips and pizza this year than you did on Nasa. Grow up.

      March 30, 2011 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
  9. JT

    1) Iraq war – $1,000,000,000,000; 2) war on drugs – $1,000,000,000,00; 3) Messenger Mission to Mercury $450,000,000

    My child goes to half day kindegarten b/c the school can't afford $30,000 annually for a teacher – PRICELESS!

    March 30, 2011 at 5:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Greasy Pickle

      Catholic molestation $155,000,000
      Cruise missile's in Libya $600,000,000
      OPEC grosses $1,000,000,000,000

      Growing up in poverty, Marine Corps service, graduating college x2 and still struggling as middle class = (enter comment here)

      March 30, 2011 at 7:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Bones

      Yes, this mission cost money. Unlike wars, though, space missions aren't stupid. See, scientists LEARN things from these missions. It's not just "well, we wanna picture of a big gray rock." Just because the full abstract isn't in the article on CNN doesn't mean there's not a point. There's a lot more to this than a single photograph.

      If we didn't spend any money on knowledge, exactly what do you think your child would STUDY during your precious full-day kindergarten?

      Let me guess: the Bible, right? You want them to teach the Bible, don't you?

      March 30, 2011 at 8:03 am | Report abuse |
    • sciguy73

      Over half of my state tax money already goes to educate your brat, you ingrate.

      March 30, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
    • krozareq

      We got back more from space than we spent on it. NASA has also contributed in other ways. Many kids have a goal to study physics, engineering, and other things because of growing up with the things NASA has accomplished. Staying ahead of the tech curve is what defines America. We can always be beat in manufacturing cheap widgets for example.

      March 30, 2011 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Mars

      Wars aren't stupid either. If we didn't have a war with England, we wouldn't have become the strongest country in the world. If we didn't fight Hitler, Europe would have been dominated by a crazy man. If the Greeks didn't fight the Persians, we wouldn't have democracy. DUh Winner.

      March 30, 2011 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
  10. TsWizl۬chewbacca

    Far out I wonder what it looked like 40,000 years ago

    March 30, 2011 at 5:44 am | Report abuse |
    • JT

      it didnt. the universe is only 2,000 years old.

      March 30, 2011 at 5:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Joshua

      I initially assumed JT was joking, but considering the imbecility of his/her earlier comment, being a creationist makes sense.

      March 30, 2011 at 5:57 am | Report abuse |
    • JT

      the only inane commentary, is your assumption i'm a creationist. my philosophical and/or political beliefs are immaterial – do you not find it offensive that we waste money abroad but cant feed the homeless or ensure quality of life for our elderly?

      March 30, 2011 at 6:06 am | Report abuse |
    • JBK

      I'd say it was 40,000 years younger....But the birthers will likely demand a certificate...:)!

      March 30, 2011 at 7:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Tomi

      Feed the poor!? I'd rather a space mission into finding other habitable planets. Its alot easier to stop poverty when you can send all the jobless to another planet and they can work there building homes, roads, and a society. Rather than giving those Lazy morons money for nothing, so they can buy drugs and alcohol and brag about not paying taxes. Plus MOST OF THEM ARE MEXICAN! lol

      March 30, 2011 at 7:46 am | Report abuse |
  11. Space Ball Junkie

    Shame on everyone youall missed the Elvis picture on the bottom. Left side of the picture

    March 30, 2011 at 5:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Zaphod

      Yup, it is right there.....printed on Mercury's Velvet Plains.

      March 30, 2011 at 6:00 am | Report abuse |
  12. IDon

    Who gives a crap! NASA is the biggest waste of taxpayer money around!

    March 30, 2011 at 5:47 am | Report abuse |
    • JBK

      Pennies compared to the Pentagon....

      March 30, 2011 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Joshua Lorenzo Newett

      Yeah seriously that money could have been used to fix things here at home. Good article here

      March 30, 2011 at 7:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. SP&L

    That is awesome! Congratulations to all engineers and scientists (past and present) for making that possible. And, big thanks to uncle Sam for allocating money for such projects!

    March 30, 2011 at 5:56 am | Report abuse |
  14. me

    I don't get many hundreds of millions of dollars do we spend to get there and we can't get a color pic of the thing?

    March 30, 2011 at 5:58 am | Report abuse |
    • duh

      That was already answered. Good reading skills, homie.

      March 30, 2011 at 6:13 am | Report abuse |
  15. Zaphod

    If Mercury had a moon, would they call it Freddie?

    March 30, 2011 at 5:59 am | Report abuse |
    • John Deacon

      Best comment by far...

      March 30, 2011 at 7:41 am | Report abuse |
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