MESSENGER is getting ready for her third Mercury Fly-by

Sure Hubble's pictures are prettier, but there's a lot of cool science coming out of the nifty MESSENGER spacecraft.  She's up for a third Mercury fly-by in two weeks. She'll go into orbit in 2011 and she's the first spacecraft there for 30 years!

Already we've seen her video leaving Earth on a 2005 fly-by. Her first two Mercury fly-bys showed part of the planet we had never seen, and also answered some questions about the Caloris basin (and its formation), the planet's exosphere, and the planet's magnetic field.

Go visit the website to hear more or read from the special issue of Science from May 1, 2009.

Here's a picture from her last fly-by:


More like this

Today's big science news is the Messenger flyby of Mercury. The Messenger spacecraft is scheduled to do a flyby of the planet about four hours from now, en route to it's final destination - Mercury - which it will reach in 2011, after completing additional flybys of the planet Mercury in October,…
Yesterday the MESSENGER spacecraft circled behind Mercury one last time, where no one on Earth could see it, and slammed into the surface of the intemperate planet at an estimated 8750 miles per hour. It was the second probe to visit Mercury—Mariner 10 completed three fly-bys of the planet in 1974…
When I was a kid, Mercury and Pluto were the bookends of our Solar System. The two smallest planets, one of them was distant, icy, and raw, and the other was close in, speedy, and overcooked. One of them had the New Horizons mission planned for it, and the other had the Messenger mission. Only one…
They will see us waving from such great heights "Come down now," they'll say. But everything looks perfect from far away "Come down now," but we'll stay. -The Postal Service It isn't the weekend, but I'd feel terrible showing you these pictures without giving you the right song to take you through…

The mission web site has some good stuff on it, although I think the "gallery" could be done better.

The "Special Issue of Science" (like all other issues) is hidden behind a pay-wall (sigh). On the one hand, I understand the need for Science to charge (but $15 for one article for *24 hour access* - WTF!). On the other hand, taxpayers paid for the mission, the data, and the salaries of many (most?, all?) of the people involved, so why do we have to pay again? This is an old debate; I wonder how it will eventually be resolved, because the current situation is not sustainable.