More images released of Mercury, taken by orbiter
March 30th, 2011
04:36 PM ET

More images released of Mercury, taken by orbiter

NASA released on Wednesday more of the first images of Mercury taken by a spacecraft orbiting the planet, including the first color closeups depicting it in all its pock-marked glory.

The images were taken by NASA's Messenger spacecraft, the first mission to orbit the planet closest to the sun, according to Messenger's website. Mercury has been seen up close before in fly-bys, but this mission marks the first complete long view reconnaissance of the planet’s geochemistry, geophysics, geologic history, atmosphere, magnetosphere, and plasma environment.

The mission also allows NASA and its partner, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, an opportunity to show off Messenger's impressive Mercury Dual Imaging System, which has two cameras: the Narrow Angle Camera and the Wide Angle Camera, NASA said.

The first image acquired by Messenger, which was released Tuesday, was part of an eight-image sequence for which images were acquired through eight of the wide angle camera's 11 filters. A color version of that first imaged terrain, pocked with craters, was obtained through the filters and displayed in red, green, and blue, respectively, NASA said.

Over the next two days, Messenger will acquire more than 1,000 additional 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 Messenger spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and after fly-bys of Earth, Venus and Mercury, started its historic orbit around Mercury on March 17.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the Messenger spacecraft and manages the Discovery-class mission for NASA. Messenger is an acronym for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging.

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soundoff (193 Responses)
  1. cpc65

    I love space exploration and all, but wow. Color photos of a planet that's 95% gray. PS: Mythbusters debunked most of the "fake" moon landing myths, and I have no idea why morons had to bring this up here. So is that Bush's fault, or Obama's? Or maybe of government conspiracy to cover up the fact that a race Big Foots actually runs the country?

    March 31, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. Matt

    What an amazing mission! Awesome pictures! It's heartening to think we are still advancing our knowledge and reaching for the stars, despite all the luddites, myopes, and general science haters out there. Stay curious, people!

    March 31, 2011 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
  3. Peter

    The sad part about space exploration is that the big motivation is war. Wars are the catalist for science and technology. When countries really work together we will have a real star trek world working together. Most of the research done today has a weapon component on it. Even medical research a few times is there to create a perfect soldier. We need to go to space for the right reasons and with private companies in charge. The NASA model of business is obsolete. Private companies would have done more, in less time and with less money.

    March 31, 2011 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  4. James

    The flag has a small wire passing through the top of it so it looks like its waving in the wind. The moon is not that far from earth (in the big picture) there were plenty of people that tracked the capsule all the way to the moon with telescopes. I guess you are going to say the space shuttle never made it to space either.

    Maybe we did get some technology from UFO's to help do all this. Is that really that far fetched? The universe is very big.

    March 31, 2011 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
  5. Todd

    Jazz7> I love the fact that you are this lone creative Free Spirit buzzing and zipping about from one intellectual post to another. I just luv it! That is what the Planets name sake was known for doing as well, Mercury the speedy messenger.
    You sort of personify that mythical image...please keep zipping about with your messages;)

    March 31, 2011 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  6. Shotzbot

    Shotzbot, has been banned from commenting on CNN......No reason given just one small voice for freedom and liberty denied their rights of free speach by CNN.

    March 31, 2011 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
  7. Shotzbot

    Shotzbot, has been banned from commenting on CNN......No reason given just one small voice for freedom and liberty denied their rights of free speech by CNN.

    March 31, 2011 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  8. Grandpa RD

    The pics from Mercury are swell, but I'm hoping I live long enough to see any pics that come back from the New Horizons project out at Pluto.

    Talk about bang for your buck, you guys know that the Cassini mission to Saturn is STILL returning pics and data?

    As an old dude growing up in the late 40's and the rockin' 50's I fully support NASA and all that they do. What better return for a measly couple of billion bucks than an understanding of our surroundings?

    Those droll trolls out there that blast this agency don't know a quasar from a hole in the ground IMHO.

    March 31, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. GR8Thinkers

    We are a fifth grade class in Texas. We want to know more about how the Messenger was launched. How did they know the right time to launch it? Where exactly was it launched from? We also want to know what are some of the similarities and differences between the surface and atmosphere of Earth and Mercury? Is there any evidence of natural disasters in Mercury's history? We're also curious about the color enhanced photos. Is Mercury's surface really that color? Or do the colors represent something else, like temperature? The article says that the Messenger did a fly-by of Earth and Venus before reaching Mercury. How did they do that, and why was it necessary? Did it sling-shot around the planets? Do the pictures tell us anything about how old Mercury is or how it was formed? Thanks for your help! 🙂

    April 7, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  10. GR8Thinkers

    Why can't we view our post? Where is it?

    April 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mobile Money Machines ae

    Hey, I receive a 504 Gateway Timeout error when I browse your site. This sometimes means the host did not receive a response. I thought yuo may want to know. Best wishes Jim

    November 15, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
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