Oooh Mercury!!

Check out these new pictures of Mercury taken yesterday by the Messenger spacecraft on its second flyby of the planet.  These are amazing!  These are the first “close up” pictures we have gotten of Mercury in over 30 years.  THIRTY YEARS!  We have never seen such detailed pictures of the Sun’s closest planet.  In a couple more years, and after another flyby in 2009, Messenger will become the first spacecraft to go into orbit around Mercury.

This stuff is really incredible. Messenger was launched in 2004. Since then, it has performed 2 flybys of Venus, 2 flybys of Mercury, is set to perform another flyby of Mercury, and will then go into orbit around the planet.

It’s really mind-boggling. We, as in ‘intelligent humans’, myself not included, can launch an object into space, swirl it around the solar system a few times, and put it into orbit around a planet 57 MILLION miles away.  And all of this with only a few course corrections along the way.  The precision and timing required for projects like this would melt my brain into a puddle of goo.

Here is a link to Messenger’s timeline.

And a link to The Bad Astronomer who explains this stuff a whole lot better than I can.

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