The MESSENGER orbiter’s January 2008 flyby of the planet Mercury was historic. The last time a spacecraft visited was 1975, and it only mapped half the planet. MESSENGER is now sending back a complete picture of Mercury, shedding light on its geological history. But the ongoing mission will return much more than images. Its data on the planet’s core, magnetic field, composition, and other attributes will help scientists answer pressing questions about the evolution of the terrestrial planets and even the Solar System itself. MESSENGER goes into orbit around the planet Mecury next month.
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