RIP MESSENGER Probe, 2004-2015

posted: 04/30/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Artist concept of MESSENGER probe

NASA's MESSENGER probe came crashing into the surface of Mercury today, bringing an end to a remarkable 11-year, 8 billion-mile journey of exploration.

The probe first arrived at Mercury four years ago, after seven years of travel. It finally depleted is supply of fuel propellant on Thursday, and solar gravity then sent it hurtling unceremoniously toward the surface of Mercury.

"Going out with a bang as it impacts the surface of Mercury, we are celebrating MESSENGER as more than a successful mission," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "The MESSENGER mission will continue to provide scientists with a bonanza of new results as we begin the next phase of this mission--analyzing the exciting data already in the archives, and unravelling the mysteries of Mercury."

Launched in 2004 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, MESSENGER was officially known as the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging Probe. The probe made a flyby of Earth, two flybys of Venus and three flybys of Mercury before officially settling into orbit on March 18, 2011.

MESSENGER was the first scientific instrument to make close observations of Mercury since NASA's Mariner 10 mission, which ended over 30 years ago. Throughout its life, MESSENGER discovered water ice and organic compounds on Mercury's surface, water in the planet's exosphere and evidence of volcanic activity. It has sent back almost 250,000 photographs.

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