MESSENGER Spacecraft Named by Time Magazine as One of 2009’s 50 Best Inventions, and Other Cool Mission Highlights & Updates

 Posted by DrJeff on December 10th, 2009

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Photo Caption: Image taken September 29, 2009 by MESSENGER’s Narrow Angle Camera (NAC). The distance across the bottom of the image is 250 miles (410 km), which means the crater at lower left is about 80 miles (130 km) across! The crater’s appearance points to Mercury’s volcanic past—to a time when the crater was filled with lava and now only portions of the crater’s circular rim are visible. (Click on image for zoom.)


This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.

Remember the MESSENGER spacecraft we were all following back in September as it flew by Mercury? The little spacecraft that gave us all a scare during the September 29 flyby (hey little fella, don’t do that again) is day-by-day getting closer to orbital insertion on March 18, 2011. We’re now just 15 months away!


I promised to keep you all posted with new mission updates. My last was October 17, and there have been a bunch of things piling up to report. I could have just quietly inserted the new updates on the MESSENGER Mission Updates page here at the Blog, and snuck in a date change in the Teachable Moments in the News QuickLinks Box in the upper right corner above (your cue to look in upper right corner). But hey! When Time Magazine names a family member as one of the 50 Best Inventions of 2009 (and by the way, we were number 11) YOU’VE JUST GOT TO CELEBRATE WITH AN OFFICIAL POST!


And a BIG thanks to Dr. Harri Vanhala, (another) cool astrophysicist here at the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, for feeding me all the updates information. Dr. Harri (to his fans) also manages the MESSENGER Educator Fellowship Program, and oversaw the development of the brand spanking new Mission Design curriculum package that will be available in Spring 2010. The package has lots of middle and high school lessons that engage students in the design process for a robotic spacecraft mission to another planet, and teachers—you’ll be able to download it lesson by lesson at no cost. Your tax dollars at work.


So I invite y’all (a shout out to my friends in Houston and Corpus Christi) to check out the MESSENGER Mission Updates page for a link to the official honor from Time Magazine, LOTS of new images of Mercury, a way cool podcast on the results of the September 29 flyby by Team Member Bob Hirshon of the American Assocation for the Advancement of Science, and a link for the NASA Teleconference which showcased the scientific findings from the flyby.


Keep Truckin’ MESSENGER. And you folks in the blogosphere—stay tuned right here.



Photocredit: NASA


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