NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, which has been orbiting Mercury since 2011, will soon completely deplete the fuel it needs to stay in orbit. It’ll crash into Mercury, ending its mission, around the end of April, 2015. As MESSENGER’s long-expected collision with Mercury approaches, NASA will hold a telecon – for both media and the public – to share the spacecraft’s scientific findings and technical accomplishments. The telecon is scheduled for Thursday, April 16, at 1 p.m. EDT (17:00 UTC). Watch here.
In the past few months, MESSENGER has been getting closer and closer to Mercury. When it hits, it’ll be moving at a speed of more than 8,750 miles per hour (3.91 km/sec).
MESSENGER – which stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging – has spent more than 10 years in space. It’s considered a highly successful mission.
Launched in August 2004, MESSENGER traveled 4.9 billion miles (7.9 billion kilometers) – a journey that included 15 trips around the sun and flybys of Earth once, Venus twice, and Mercury three times – before it was inserted into orbit around planet Mercury in March, 2011. The spacecraft’s cameras and other sophisticated, high-technology instruments have collected unprecedented images and made other observations.
Mission managers are preparing for the spacecraft’s crash Mercury’ surface that will happen in the next couple of weeks.
Bottom line: NASA telecon on MESSENGER mission to Mercury, which will end later this month when the spacecraft crashes into the planet. The telecon will be on Thursday, April 16, at 1 p.m. EDT (17:00 UTC). Watch here.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.