Though MESSENGER's days are numbered, the spacecraft will continue to acquire new data sets and transmit them back to Earth during its final days. Shown here is a high-resolution view snapped near Heemskerck Rupes, named for the Dutch ship that explored Australia and New Zealand in 1642-1643. The total number of images that MDIS has acquired and returned to Earth since entering Mercury orbit in March 2011 is currently 277,447, which is many more than originally planned for MESSENGER's one-year primary mission! In the next few days, approximately 500 additional images are planned to be received back at Earth, though the spacecraft is expected to impact the planet on April 30 with more than a thousand images still on its recorder, never to be seen. This is by design, as it is better to collect more data than can be transmitted than end the mission having been able to possibly have done more!
Check out some highlights from the MESSENGER mission by visiting this image collection, or watch MESSENGER team members discuss the mission in these recently posted videos.
Date acquired: April 26, 2015
Image Mission Elapsed Time (MET): 72384761
Image ID: 8400449
Instrument: Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS)
Center Latitude: 25.1°
Center Longitude: 234.4° E
Resolution: 6.7 meters/pixel
Scale: The bottom of this image is about 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) across
Incidence Angle: 57.9°
Emission Angle: 56.5°
Phase Angle: 40.7°
The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft's seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation are unraveling the history and evolution of the Solar System's innermost planet. In the mission's more than four years of orbital operations, MESSENGER has acquired over 250,000 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER's highly successful orbital mission is about to come to an end, as the spacecraft runs out of propellant and the force of solar gravity causes it to impact the surface of Mercury in April 2015.
For information regarding the use of images, see the MESSENGER image use policy.