NASA’s Messenger To Crash Thursday
Just like those explosions in the movie STAR WARS, NASA's Mercury-orbiting spacecraft, Messenger, is going out with a bang this week, after running out of fuel. It is expected to create a hefty crater on the surface of Mercury, the smallest planet closest to the sun. Here's how big of a crater.
NASA's first spacecraft to circle Mercury, Messenger is expected to slip out of orbit and slam into planet Mercury this Thursday, April 30, following a successful four-year tour of the rocky planet which is no bigger than the moon orbiting around Earth.
The spacecraft will be traveling 8,750 mph when it hit. That's fast enough to carve out a crater 52 feet wide. The spacecraft itself stretches 10 feet solar wingtip to wingtip.
Messenger has run out of fuel, but ground controllers managed in recent weeks to squeeze out some extra life, 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.
The $427 million Messenger mission was developed and run for NASA by Johns Hopkins University.
According to NBCChicago, NASA states that tomorrow, Thursday April 30, Messenger is expected to crash into the side of Mercury facing away from Earth. So there will be no cameras or observatories to witness the impact. Scientists expect to gather information from Messenger until 10 to 15 minutes before its fatal plunge.
It's been a rewarding mission, but still seems sad that the end is near.
Thank you Messenger...Job well done.