Podcast: Play in new window
BOB HIRSHON (host):
Crashing into Mercury. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.
After four years orbiting the planet Mercury, the MESSENGER spacecraft is now skimming lower and lower over the surface. And later this month, it will crash into the planet. Deputy Principle Investigator Larry Nittler at the Carnegie Institution says the low orbit is giving scientists an unprecedented look at the planet.
LARRY NITTLER (Carnegie Institution Department for Terrestrial Magnetism):
The data we’ve obtained from these low altitudes has been spectacular and given us very, very high resolution measurements of the surface chemistry, of the gravity field, of the magnetic field, as well as spectacular imagery at scales we just could not investigate earlier.
Even though the spacecraft will soon be gone, the mission will continue, as scientists analyze the images and other data from MESSENGER—including the unprecedented close up readings moments before impact. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.