The End is Near: NASA’s MESSENGER Now Running on Fumes

The MESSENGER spacecraft has been in orbit around Mercury since March 2011. Image Credit: NASA/JHU APL/Carnegie Institution of Washington

The MESSENGER spacecraft has been in orbit around Mercury since March 2011 – but its days are now numbered. Image Credit: NASA/JHU APL/Carnegie Institution of Washington.

For more than four years NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft has been orbiting our solar system’s innermost planet Mercury, mapping its surface and investigating its unique geology and planetary history in unprecedented detail. But the spacecraft has run out of the fuel needed to maintain its extremely elliptical – and now quite low-altitude – orbit, and the Sun will soon set on the mission when MESSENGER makes its fatal final dive into the planet’s surface at the end of the month.

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© Jason Major for Universe Today, 2015. |
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