Doomsday At Mercury: NASA Craft Falls From Orbit Into Planet

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA’s Messenger — the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury — is no more.

Messenger ended its four-year tour at the solar system’s innermost planet with a crash landing Thursday. It plunged from orbit at a speed of more than 8,750 mph and carved out a crater an estimated 52 feet across.

The spacecraft completed 4,104 orbits of hot, little Mercury and collected more than 277,000 images.

Flight controllers confirmed Messenger’s demise when it failed to emerge from behind the far side of planet, about 14 minutes after the fact.

The only other spacecraft to visit Mercury was NASA’s Mariner 10 back in the 1970s, but that was a fly-by mission.

Did you know when I make my final impact, I will be traveling 8,750 miles/hour (3.91 km/s), creating a crater ~52 feet (16 m) wide?

— MESSENGER (@MESSENGER2011) April 28, 2015


— MESSENGER (@MESSENGER2011) April 30, 2015

On behalf of MESSENGER, thank you all for your support. We will continue to update you on our great discoveries. We will miss it.

— MESSENGER (@MESSENGER2011) April 30, 2015

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