MESSENGER is a scientic investigationo the planet Mercury. UnderstandingMercury, and the orces that have shapedit, is undamental to understanding theterrestrial planets and their evolution. The MESSENGER (MErcury Surace, SpaceENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging)spacecrat will orbit Mercury ollowing threefybys o that planet. The orbital phase willuse the fyby data as an initial guide toperorm a ocused scientic investigation o this enigmatic world.MESSENGER will investigate keyscientic questions regarding Mercury’scharacteristics and environment duringthese two complementary mission phases.Data are provided by an optimized set o miniaturized space instruments and thespacecrat telecommunications system.MESSENGER will enter orbit about Mercuryin March 2011 and carry out comprehensivemeasurements or one Earth year. Orbitaldata collection concludes in March 2012.
Key Spacecrat Characteristics
Redundant major systems provide critical backup.
Passive thermal design utilizing ceramic-clothsunshade requires no high-temperature electronics.
Fixed phased-array antennas replace a deployablehigh-gain antenna.
Custom solar arrays produce power at sae operatingtemperatures near Mercury.
MESSENGER is designed to answer sixbroad scientifc questions:
Why is Mercury so dense?
What is the geologic history o Mercury?
What is the nature o Mercury’s magnetic eld?
What is the structure o Mercury’s core?
What are the unusual materials at Mercury’s poles?
What volatiles are important at Mercury?
Multiple fybys or global mapping, detailed study o high-prioritytargets, and probing o the atmosphere and magnetosphere.
An orbiter or detailed characterization o the surace,interior, atmosphere, and magnetosphere.
An education and public outreach program to produceexhibits, plain-language books, educational modules, andteacher training through partnerships.
Launch: 3 August 2004Launch vehicle: Delta II 7925H-9.5Earth fyby: 2 August 2005Venus fybys (2): 24 October 2006,5 June 2007Mercury fybys (3): 14 January 2008,6 October 2008,29 September 2009Mercury orbit insertion: 17 March 2011 (EDT)18 March 2001 (UTC)