What a Smashing Hit

Posted by Rebecca Galloway on 1 May 2015 | 0 Comments

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“Today we bid a fond farewell to one of the most resilient and accomplished spacecrafts ever to have explored our neighboring planets,” said lead scientist Sean Solomon, director of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Unknowingly at the time, NASA created a spacecraft that would soon make history and break records in 2004. The Messenger launched on Aug. 3, 2004. This spacecraft was the first to orbit Mercury by circling the inner solar system close to 4,105 times and collected over 277,000 images. The spacecraft also has set the record for the most planetary flybys; once past Earth, twice past Venus, and three times past Mercury before entering Mercury’s orbit. Messenger captured historical pictures of Mercury like these two.  

       

Unfortunately, this spacecraft’s historic tour came to a close on April 30, 2015. The Messenger crashed into the side of Mercury, creating a 50-foot crater. The spacecraft ran out of gas and then slipped out of Mercury’s orbit causing the crash at about 8,750 mph according to NASA. The NASA team could not see the crash or call the end of the operations because it occurred on the side of Mercury facing away from Earth. A twitter account was made for the spacecraft and at 3:16 p.m. ET @MESSENGER2011 said, “Well I guess it is time to say goodbye to all my friends, family, support team. I will be making my final impact very soon.”  At 3:23 p.m. ET, @MESSENGER2011 tweeted “#thatsmessenger Messenger’s last act? That’s smashing!” with this photo in the tweet.  

Sources:
http://www.foxnews.com/science/2015/04/30/nasas-messenger-spacecraft-crashes-into-mercury/
http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/the_mission/index.html
http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_1907.html
http://www.wsj.com/articles/nasas-messenger-spacecraft-ends-mission-with-crash-into-mercury-1430449022