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NASA’s Messenger spacecraft set to dive bomb Mercury

Washington, D.C. - NASA's Mercury-orbiting spacecraft, Messenger, is going out with a bang this week, adding a hefty crater to the little planet closest to the sun.


April 30, 2015
By The Associated Press

The first spacecraft to circle Mercury, Messenger is expected to slip out of orbit and slam into Mercury on Thursday following a successful four-year tour of the rocky planet. The spacecraft will be travelling 14,081 kilometres per hour (8,750 miles per hour) when it hits, fast enough to carve out a crater 16 metres (52 feet) wide. The spacecraft itself stretches 3 metres (10 feet) solar wingtip to wingtip.

Messenger has run out of fuel, but ground controllers managed in recent weeks to eke out some extra life, raising Messenger’s orbit by dipping into helium gas reserves not originally intended for use as fuel. But now that’s all gone and Messenger is at the mercy of gravity. | READ MORE