Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

MESSENGER Completes Its 1,000th Orbit of Mercury
by Staff Writers
Laurel MD (SPX) Jun 27, 2012

File image.

MESSENGER will complete its 1,000th orbit of the planet closest to the Sun at 11:22 p.m. EDT tonight. "Reaching this milestone is yet another testimony to the hard work and dedication of the full MESSENGER team that has designed, launched, and operated this highly successful spacecraft," says the mission trajectory lead Jim McAdams of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.

The spacecraft was inserted into orbit around Mercury in mid-March 2011, after travelling more than 15 times around the Sun through the inner solar system and completing six planetary flybys. "Since arriving at Mercury, MESSENGER took a little more than 15 months to reach this mark," McAdams notes.

"But because the orbital period has been reduced from just under 12 hours to 8 hours, it will take only 11 months to complete the next 1,000 orbits."

During its primary mission, which concluded on March 17, 2012, MESSENGER performed the first global reconnaissance of the geochemistry, geophysics, geologic history, atmosphere, magnetosphere, and plasma environment of Mercury.

The spacecraft is now more than one-quarter of the way into a one-year extended mission that is building on this knowledge to address new questions raised by the initial orbital observations.

"Mercury is in a tough neighborhood, with high temperatures and increasingly frequent streams of solar energetic particles," says MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

"It is therefore all the more remarkable that this spacecraft has met the challenge to perform as designed after 1,000 orbits about the innermost planet in our solar system. There is much more science ahead for this mission."

Paper on MESSENGER's Magnetosphere Garners Top Student Presentation Award
University of Michigan graduate student and MESSENGER team member Gina DiBraccio received an Outstanding Student Paper Award from the American Geophysical Union's Planetary Sciences Section for her presentation, "MESSENGER observations of magnetopause structure at Mercury," delivered at the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco last December.

The presentation explored the mechanism by which energy and momentum are transferred from the solar wind into Mercury's magnetosphere.

"The processes at the boundary to Mercury's magnetosphere, in particular magnetic reconnection, are similar to what has been found at Earth's magnetopause, except that Mercury experiences much shorter timescales and a higher frequency of events," explains DiBraccio.

"This has led us to question what causes the difference in timescales and intensity of magnetopause magnetic reconnection at various planets. We find that the changes in plasma and magnetic pressures affect solar-planetary interaction throughout the heliosphere, as do the orientation and strength of the interplanetary magnetic field that drapes around the planetary magnetopause."

DiBraccio's interest in space science dates back to the third grade, when she declared that she wanted to be an astronaut. "After noticing my decision, my parents strongly supported and encouraged me," she says.

"They would leave daily news clippings regarding NASA and new discoveries, take me to the local planetarium and observatories, and bring me to special events at museums, and they even bought me a telescope."

She attended the University of Pittsburgh, earning a dual B.S. degree in physics and astronomy, as well as a B.S. in business administration. She also worked as a co-op student at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, and then later at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

DiBraccio is now working on a Ph.D., and she plans to continue research with MESSENGER data. "There are many outstanding questions pertaining to planetary magnetospheres, and MESSENGER makes it possible to explore this exciting topic so we may compare our results to those at other planets with intrinsic magnetic fields," she says.


Related Links
News Flash at Mercury
Mars News and Information at
Lunar Dreams and more

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

BepiColombo Mercury Planetary Orbiter Mass Properties Measurements
Paris (ESA) Jun 22, 2012
The mass properties of the BepiColombo Mercury Planetary Orbiter have been measured using specialist equipment in ESA's European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC). The mass properties of a spacecraft (total mass, centre of gravity [CoG] and moment of inertia [MoI] about all three axes) are among the characteristics calculated during the design process. Since the correct control ... read more

ESA to catch laser beam from Moon mission

Researchers Estimate Ice Content of Crater at Moon's South Pole

Researchers find evidence of ice content at the moon's south pole

Nanoparticles found in moon glass bubbles explain weird lunar soil behaviour

Curiosity Rover on Track for Early August Landing

Opportunity Drives a Little

NASA tweaks flight path of Mars mission

Extensive Water in Mars Interior

XCOR and Excalibur Almaz sign MOU for suborbital training services

Complex Challenges Solved In Tech Meetings For Commercial Crew Program

Boeing Completes Key Reviews of Space Launch System

Two NASA Visualizations Selected for Computers Graphics Showcase

China spacecraft set to return to Earth Friday

Experts respond to rumors about Shenzhou-9

Staying stimulated in space

China's Hu praises astronauts for space advance

ISS Resupply Important to Kennedy's Past and Future

Andre wraps up six months of work on ISS

Astrium awarded two ATV evolution studies from ESA

New Space Station Crew Confirmed

SpaceX's Merlin 1D Engine Achieves Full Mission Duration Firing

USAF officials announce milestone Atlas V launch

EVE Underflight Calibration Sounding Rocket Launch

ILS and AsiaSat Announce a New Contract for an ILS Proton Launch

New Way of Probing Exoplanet Atmospheres

Forgotten Star Cluster Useful For Solar Science And Search for Earth Like Planets

SciTechTalk: Quick, name the planets!

Where Are The Metal Worlds And Is The Answer Blowing In The Wind

France pulls plug on Internet forerunner Minitel

Abuse at Apple's China suppliers: watchdog

Google rolls in tablet market with Nexus 7

Mercury mineral evolution

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement