NASA – Mission to Mercury
April 7, 2011
Though it seems NASA is facing an undecided future with their International Space Station, along with spending hundreds of millions of dollars on rockets that will never fly and leaving the world in a blur about potential alien life forms; the space program is once again building a positive repute with its latest mission. MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) on March 17, 2011 reached its historic 4.9-billion- mile journey to orbit the planet Mercury. MESSENGER Project Manager Peter Bedini of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) believes this is a defining moment and stepping stone in our countries history to be able to have a satellite orbit Mercury. This accomplishment was achieved due to the tremendous amount of time, labor and expertice engineers put into navigating the satellite. This was no easy task, especially since MESSENGER was launched nearly six and a half years ago.
Fox News became eager about this exploration mission and began to investigate by talking to NASA officials. Fox News explains that while Jupiter might be known for its moons and Saturn for its rings, Mercury is probably the most bizarre planet in the solar system. Since Mercury has no sustainable atmosphere temperatures can be a frigid 280 degrees below zero, but also a scorching hot 800 degrees. These drastic temperature changes may affect how the satellite will operate, which has caused these engineers to worry about the long awaited journey.
However, the real question about this mission is, why have a satellite orbit Mercury? MESSENGER Investigator Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, believes that many people see Mercury as the forgotten planet. This is a rare opportunity explore Mercury, and by doing so may reveal information never known about this planet. Specific areas NASA would like to understand are the planet’s composition, core structure, and magnetic field because there may be clues to understanding the evolution of our solar system.