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MESSENGER’s first image from Mercury orbit!

The solar system’s innermost planet finally has its very own orbiter, in the form of NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft (the acronym-makers at NASA must be very proud of that name – it’s short for “MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging”, and MESSENGER itself is also a riff on Mercury’s mythical as the fleet-footed messenger of the gods. Cunning!).

Today, on 29th March 2001, it sent back its first image from Mercury orbit – which is exactly 37 years after Mariner 10 sent back its first pictures of Mercury after it first flew past (but didn’t go into orbit around) the planet in 1974!

The first (colour) image from Mercury Orbit!
Credit:NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

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