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. Jazz7

    Sorry I meant TOO in first sentance
    last sentence i meant TWO

    March 30, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jeff Frank - Ohio

    I hear tell after Mercury has been exploited, their going to send Gadhafi there to be the one, the only, military leader to guide and rule an entire planet. He might want to take along some sun blocker. Hey if he goes ther barbeque is a snap. Just slap a couple porterhouses right on the sidewalk.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rami

    Anyone can tell if there is OIL there. If so, can we start and support a rebels?

    March 30, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ThomasD

    Hey Jazz. That was kinda my point. Because of the benefits to people through the administrations research and development, it is, in a way, putting people first. Or, thats how I see it. Thank you for the compliment. Not a lot of brain work in being a laid-off aerospace mechanic, though.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jazz7

    WOOOOOOO , Cant believe you dont have a job. I would hire u in a heart beat. Have they been cutting back on Nasa programs , not up to date on that one.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jeff Frank - Ohio

    On the winter solstice 12/21/12, is Mercury or anything else for that matter going to "line up" as it were?

    March 30, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jazz7

    I'm a hick from the sticks so my lingo may be different than yours but a guess we arrived to the same conclusion.

    March 30, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      And by your "lingo" I suppose you mean your "ability to write with any coherent proficiency."

      March 30, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jazz7

    I can have my moments. with not being coherent , as I have said before I am not PERFECT , BACK OFF B@CH

    March 30, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. dave

    Is there oil inside this thing or not?

    March 30, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. hkusp40

    I love when people whine about the cost. Then they log on the internet with thier phone, take digital pics, use wifi and all that other electronic stuff. Thank NASA and the space program for all that.

    March 30, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Smart person

    These photos reveal once and for all that this planet is, in fact, not made of mercury. Time for a name change?

    March 30, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • GoRemote

      But it is clearly the God of War...........

      March 30, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jazz7

    @ John I'll explain another way sometimes I get tough tied when I am speaking to a brain e ack , sorry I ruined your entire life

    March 30, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tony Zito

    I'd like to second Chris's comment about the value of studying other planets as examples. What we have learned about Venus and Mars, for example, is crucial to our understanding of climate on earth, and has contributed tremendously to our understanding of the prospects for global warming. I am always amazed at how hard it is to create 'useless" knowledge.

    March 30, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Curtis Garrard

    Give me a bio dome

    March 30, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Uzma

    Loved the pics. Dont' really mind the cost, just wondering if this much organization & persuasion was done 2 lets say end the world might have produced far better results. Anything charitable on a global scale lacks massive organization and constant authority...... But NASA u carry on.... I am sure there r no hungry people on mercury 4 sure 2 bother any of us ....

    March 30, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lone

      World hunger has little to do with money and outside organizational effort and more the direct result of societies that perpetuate over-population and failed government. It is people, not technology, that fix these kinds of problems. Until then world hunger is a black hole that will never be filled.

      March 31, 2011 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
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