Sunday, October 5, 2008

Second Flyby

Goodbye, terra incognita - for most of the remaining portions of the surface of Mercury are about to be imaged by spaceprobe for the first time, thus al but completing the mapping of the inner solar system carried out since the first successful interplanetary mission back in 1964 (not to mention the imaging of the lunar farside in 1959). Only 26 hours to go before closest approach...

The MESSENGER spacecraft, which will flyby Mercury to-morrow, will thereby have its orbit so modified that, after a third, similar flyby next year, it will be directed correctly to brake and enter orbit around the smallest and innermost planet on the 18th of March 2011.

There was still speculation that the images already taken on approach, and those to be returned over the next few days, would shew the putative Skinakas Basin, a supposed large impact feature similar in size to the Caloris Basin (currently the largest-known surface feature on Mercury), which earthbound imaging claimed to have identified some years back; however, latest results seems to disprove its existence - see the continuing discussion over at Unmanned

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