Four year long Mercury watch comes to an end

MESSENGER probe ends its mission to Mercury by sending out pictures before crashing to the planet’s surface

Updated Jul 28, 2015

NASA spacecraft MESSENGER, which had orbited Mercury for four years, has concluded its task with a crash-landing after running out of fuel. Before its destruction the probe sent out most close-up pictures.

MESSENGER, which was the first spacecraft to map Mercury, tweeted a farewell before its demise.

“Well, I guess it's time to say goodbye to all my friends, family, support team. I will be making my final impact very soon," it said.

A few minutes later, its Twitter account, @MESSENGER2011, shared a picture of Mercury with a caption, saying “Messenger’s last act? That’s smashing!"

The spacecraft crashed into the surface of Mercury with a speed of 3.91 kilometers per second and created a 16 meter crater on the scarred face of the planet.

"Going out with a bang as it impacts the surface of Mercury, we are celebrating MESSENGER as more than a successful mission," said John Grunsfeld, from NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

The probe was launched in 2004 and had been orbiting Mercury for four years after arriving in 2011, during which it sent more than 289 thousand images to earth and provided 10 TB data for scientific inquiries.

The spacecraft revolved around the planet more than 4 thousand times and has made many discoveries, such as confirming the existence of ice and even possible carbon-based organic compounds inside of craters - which provide a shield from the Mercury’s average surface temperature of 167 degrees Celsius.  

Europe and Japan are planning a new mission to the planet, called BepiColombo, which is due to launch in 2017.  

TRTWorld and agencies