NASA Spacecraft MESSENGER enters Mercury orbit, first time in history

By on Mar 18, 2011 in Astronomy, United States Comments

Updated: June 18, 2011 3:58 a.m.

Read NASA: Mercury latest photos taken by Messenger spacecraft released

MESSENGER, NASA’s spacecraft, has successfully entered the orbit of planet Mercury on Thursday, March 17, 2011, and a first time in the history.

MESSENGER orbits around Mercury (Artist’s concept)
Image Credit:

According to, MESSENGER started its orbit around the planet Mercury at around 9 p.m. (EDT) on Thursday, apparently the first time for any spacecraft to orbit that planet.

MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging, or MESSENGER, was launched by NASA on August 3, 2004, and a second mission to Mercury after Mariner 10 had a flyby in 1975.

“This mission will continue to revolutionize our understanding of Mercury during the coming year,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said on the report, in which planet Earth is about 96 million miles away from Mercury.

NASA science is rewriting text books. MESSENGER is a great example of how our scientists are innovating to push the envelope of human knowledge.” Mr. Bolden added, who was at MESSENGER mission control at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

At about 9:10 p.m. (EDT) that night, engineers at the Operations Center have received radiometric signals, a confirmation that nominal burn had shutdown, which follows the entrance of the MESSENGER probe to Mercury’s orbit.

At around 9:45 p.m. (EDT), or 35 minutes later, MESSENGER rotated back to Earth and started to transmit data, which showed that there were no problems encountered.

“Achieving Mercury orbit was by far the biggest milestone since MESSENGER was launched more than six and a half years ago,” Peter Bedini said, MESSENGER project manager of the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL).

“This accomplishment is the fruit of a tremendous amount of labor on the part of the navigation, guidance-and-control, and mission operations teams, who shepherded the spacecraft through its 4.9-billion-mile journey.” He added.

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