The robotic spacecraft MESSENGER is the first in human history to see and map nearly the entire surface of the closest planet to the sun. Recently, mission scientists released data collected during MESSENGER’s first two months in orbit. Learn more, and see the data for yourself.
These illustrations show plans for how some of the instruments will explore these mysterious new lands. Clockwise from the upper-left:
Footprints of the MDIS Instrument on Mercury’s Surface. (The Mercury Dual Imaging System consists of wide-angle and narrow-angle imagers that map landforms, track variations in surface spectra and gather topographic information)
Areas Targeted for Imaging at High Resolution.
Coverage Density of the GRS Sensor on the GRNS Instrument. (The Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer detects gamma rays and neutrons that are emitted by radioactive elements on Mercury’s surface or by surface elements that have been stimulated by cosmic rays. It will be used to map the relative abundances of different elements and will help to determine if there is ice at Mercury’s poles, which are never exposed to direct sunlight.)
Footprints of the MASCS Instrument on Mercury’s Surface. (The Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer is sensitive to light from the infrared to the ultraviolet and measures the abundances of atmospheric gases, as well as detects minerals on the surface.)
Sent by: MESSENGER | From: Mercury | Released: September, 2011 | Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington | Image source