During its orbit, Messenger (stylized as MESSENGER, since it’s an acronym for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) sent back images and data that are instrumental to learning about what’s beyond our atmosphere. Some of the images are astounding, giving scientists new views on the planet. Besides mapping the planet, Messenger studied Mercury’s geological and chemical makeup; scientists even found water, which was unexpected.
Even before its impact, Mercury was working hard. It continued to tweet messages, including this final bittersweet farewell (although there was most likely people back on Earth doing that).
Well I guess it is time to say goodbye to all my friends, family, support team. I will be making my final impact very soon.
— MESSENGER (@MESSENGER2011) April 30, 2015
A timeline of the Mercury spacecraft can be found on NASA’s website, as well as an image gallery of the spacecraft and photos Messenger took. We’ve pulled together a handful of those images sent back to NASA over the years.
- NASA’s Juno craft captures beautiful swirling cloud formations on Jupiter
- We’re going to the red planet! All the past, present, and future missions to Mars
- Tiny Israeli spacecraft Beresheet enters orbit around the moon
- New Horizons captures highest-resolution image yet of Ultima Thule
- See the impact site where the Beresheet spacecraft crashed into the moon