Friday, January 18th, 2008--- Earlier this week, the MESSENGER spacecraft made a close flyby of the planet Mercury in the first encounter with the planet in almost 33 years.
The flyby is the first maneuver in a series of braking steps that will hopefully leave MESSENGER in orbit around Mercury in 2011. The name MESSENGER comes from “MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, Geochemistry, and Ranging,” a listing of some of the goals for the mission.
During the flyby, the craft was able to capture close-up images of portions of the Sun's nearest neighbor that were in shadow when Mariner 10 flew past Mercury three times in 1974 and 1975.
For images visit www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/200801181.