|Marco Foronda |||Apr 15, 2015 10:15 AM EDT|
(Photo : NASA) A depiction of the MESSENGER spacecraft is shown flying over Mercury’s surface above the bright orange Calvino crater.
After more than 10 years in space, this wonderful spacecraft will crash into Mercury and end its historic mission.
It's expected to smash into Mercury at a speed of nearly 9,000 miles per hour sometime between 12:25 and 12:30 p.m. Pacific Time on April 30.
As MESSENGER's long-expected collision with Mercury approaches, NASA will hold a telecon - for both media and the public - to share the spacecraft's scientific findings and technical accomplishments. The telecon is scheduled for Thursday, April 16, at 1 p.m. EDT (17:00 UTC).
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MESSENGER, the acronym for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft, was the first to enter orbit around the closest planet to the Sun, sending back detailed photographs of the alien surface. When it runs out of propellant, the spacecraft will be pulled by gravity to the surface in an inevitable end.
Launched in August 2004, MESSENGER traveled 4.9 billion miles (7.9 billion kilometers) - a journey that included 15 trips around the Sun and flybys of Earth once, Venus twice and Mercury three times - before it was inserted into orbit around planet Mercury in March 2011.
The spacecraft's cameras and other sophisticated, high-technology instruments have collected unprecedented images and made other observations.
"Crashing space hardware into other worlds of our solar system might sound like senseless destruction, or even a disregard for extraterrestrial environments, but in fact it's not a bad thing to do. Mostly, that has to do with cost", explains Senior Astronomer and Director of the Center for SETI Research Seth Shostak.
"A craft that's in orbit around another planet - such as Messenger - would require a large amount of fuel to hoist itself back into space. It's an obviously good trade-off to avoid carrying that fuel in favor of putting additional science equipment on-board".
MESSENGER mission managers are starting to prepare for the upcoming spacecraft's crash on Mercury' surface.
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