Messenger to Begin Orbit Around Mercury
The spacecraft sent by NASA is called Messenger, and after 6 and half years, it managed to perform an orbit around the mysterious planet. The trip was extremely difficult, as it spread over the course of 4.9 billion miles. On top of that, the spacecraft was required to perform numerous maneuvers in order to avoid the sun’s gravity. One mistake and the spacecraft would have been placed in the impossibility of getting back on track. NASA has sent various orbits into space, and Mercury represents the fifth planet orbited by a man-made satellite. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, said that this missions is very important, as it will offer the researchers the possibility of understanding more things about Mercury. He also added that this flight is proof that the engineers working at NASA are getting better and better at their jobs. Eric Finnegan, Messenger’s chief engineer said that the spacecraft is situated at the perfect position, at 120 miles above the surface of the planet and thanks to that, they can analyze various things related to the planet.
Finnegan said that this is the moment when the real work begins, but even so, the entire staff is happy that it managed to send the first satellite around Mercury. Besides the long road which Messenger had to take, there are additional problems regarding Mercury. One of the problems is the fact that the temperatures from the area are very extreme, and they range a lot. In certain areas they can reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas in other areas they can reach -300 degrees. The planet is filled with craters, and the researchers want to see if Messenger can discover ice in them. This wasn’t the first time when NASA sent a spacecraft in the area. They sent the Mariner spacecraft in order to investigate Mercury in 1970, but all it managed to collect were pictures.
Robert Strom of the University of Arizona, who was involved in both of the expeditions, said that the second flight was very tense. Messenger suddenly took a wrong direction, and they could not fix the problem in an instance because due to the distance, the commands which they sent to the space ship got there in almost 5 minutes. However, they managed to take control of the situation, and they managed to place the space craft in the proper position. The Messenger space craft was launched in 2004, and it cost NASA $446 millions. The researchers said that the space ship will start to send videos and pictures in the following month, after it makes a few orbits around the planet. The scientists want to make sure that all the systems work in the proper manner, and that the space shuttle does not have any malfunctions. Messenger will start operating on 4th of April that being the day when the primary phase will begin. Sean Solomon, Messenger’s principal investigator of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, said that the planet was ignored for a very long period of time, even if it is located in the proximity of our planet.
He said that Earth, Mars, Mercury, and Venus were all formed in the same time, but the researchers have the least amount of information about Mercury. He is certain that if they manage to obtain information about the planet, they will find out more about the way in which our planet was formed. They believe that this is just the beginning of these kinds of expeditions, and that many of them will occur in the following years. It is unknown what this expedition will reveal, and if Messenger will not encounter technical difficulties.11