NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft crashed into Mercury at over 8,700 miles per hour yesterday afternoon, after a decade of space exploration.
MESSENGER was in contact with its controllers on Earth up until 10 to 15 minutes before the crash on our sun’s closest planet. It has been orbiting Mercury for four years, collecting photos and data.
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.
— MESSENGER (@MESSENGER2011) April 30, 2015
MESSENGER has taken 15 trips around the sun, passing Earth once, Venus twice and Mercury three times since its launch in 2004.
It began orbiting Mercury in 2011 and has collected more than 270,000 photos and data about the planet.
MESSENGER found hollows on the surface of Mercury as well as evidence of volcanism and polar deposits of water ice.
MESSENGER stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging. It crashed on Mercury on the side of the planet facing away from Earth. Engineers were unable to view the exact location of impact.
The spacecraft ran out of propellant after a series of orbit correction maneuvers designed to delay impact. The last maneuver occurred on Friday, April 24th.
“For the first time in history we now have real knowledge about the planet Mercury that shows it to be a fascinating world as part of our diverse solar system,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “While spacecraft operations will end, we are celebrating MESSENGER as more than a successful mission. It’s the beginning of a longer journey to analyze the data that reveals all the scientific mysteries of Mercury.”
The original plan included orbiting Mercury for only one earth year. The results of the mission are considered to be extraordinary.