Regular Updates: The Flight of MESSENGER to Mercury through Orbital Insertion, March 18, 2011

 Posted by DrJeff on October 4th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog


Click Here to Skip the Overview of this Updates Page and Jump Directly to Updates Archive Below



Flyby 3 may be over, but MESSENGER’s mission continues. Bookmark this page for MESSENGER updates. Also note you can always access this page from the Teachable Moments in the News Quick Links box in the upper right column of this Blog, which includes the date of the latest update.

Teachers—place the mission in the greater context of human exploration, and exploration of the Solar System, using this Blog’s MESSENGER Ideas for Lessons in the Classroom, and Educational Resources page.



This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.


Photo Caption (click on image for zoom): Image taken September 29, 2009, by the MESSENGER spacecraft’s Narrow Angle Camera,15,400 km (9,600 miles) above the planet’s surface. The double-ring impact basin is approximately 100 miles (160 km) in diameter, with another large impact crater on its south-southwestern side. The image and caption was prepared by MESSENGER Educator Fellows Christina Dorr (Hilliard City School District, Hilliard, OH) and Julie Taylor (Adelanto School District, Adelanto, CA), at the MESSENGER Science Operations Center.



The September 2009 MESSENGER Special Post at Blog on the Universe, with live Web 2.0 coverage of the spacecraft’s third flyby of Mercury on September 29, generated significant interest in the NASA MESSENGER mission. Teachers and their classes were following along and posing questions to the six Voices of Mission Control via Twitter and email. I’ve created this page to provide ongoing MESSENGER mission updates through the date of orbital insertion on March 18, 2011.


Below you will find the Updates Archive. Also below are Blue Titled sections that provide an overview of the tense time in Mission Control when the signal from the spacecraft was unexpectedly lost during close approach on September 29, and a Twitter archive for the Voices of Mission Control—captured live during the flyby—so you can relive the experience.


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SPECIAL POST: The Flight of MESSENGER to Mercury: Live Web 2.0 Coverage of the Final Flyby on September 29, 2009

 Posted by DrJeff on September 18th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog


NEWS: For continued coverage of the MESSENGER mission through orbital insertion on March 18, 2011, please visit the MESSENGER Updates page on this blog.



Quick Navigation for this BotU Special Post

Click on Main Page to Ensure You’re at Special Post, not Blog Home Page


1. Schedule for MESSENGER Flyby Events and Web 2.0 Live Coverage

2. Ideas for Lessons in the Classroom, and Educational Resources

for leveraging the live events into a broader science education experience

3. The Mission Scientists, the Voices of Mission Control, and their Links

4. How to Participate—It’s Easy even if you have Twitter & Facebook blocked

5. Witness History: See Mercury Before Sunrise! Sept 29-Oct 1, 2009


Photo caption: Part of Mercury’s never before seen surface, from MESSENGER spacecraft data obtained during the first flyby on January 14, 2008. Read the story behind this imageYou want to see spectacular? Click on the image.

Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/Arizona State University, 2008.


Every so often an upcoming event is compelling enough for me to put up a dedicated Special Post at Blog on the Universe. A good example is the Apollo 11 40th anniversary. Given my involvement for the last 10 years with the MESSENGER mission, I decided the upcoming encounter deserved a Special Post. The goal is to help facilitate public engagement with the event, and point followers of this Blog to the official web sites and relevant resources. I have also provided my own thoughts on MESSENGER. This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.



It is a historic mission to another world. It marks a dramatic end to the human race’s initial reconnaissance of the eight planets of our Solar System, and the beginning of detailed study of Mercury.


On September 29, 2009, at 5:55 pm EDT, the MESSENGER spacecraft will conduct the last of three flybys of the planet. Each flyby is gravitationally modifying the spacecraft’s orbit around the Sun to ready it for orbital insertion around Mercury on March 18, 2011. On September 29 through October 1, live Web 2.0 coverage from mission control at the Applied Physics Laboratory in Columbia, Maryland, will allow teachers, their students, and the public to experience this mission milestone, and through social networks … ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE in this great adventure. There will be 7 Voices of Mission Control—MESSENGER Educator Fellows and MESSENGER Education Team members—covering the flyby in real time on Twitter and Facebook. They will be able to interact with all of you through engaging conversations, and will answer your questions. Four MESSENGER Mission Scientists will be teaming with the Voices of Mission Control throughout the live coverage. Our goal is to capture the experiences and excitement of the events as they unfold, and to tell this very human story of exploration. We want to help inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, and promote scientists and engineers as heroes and role models to our children. We want to help teachers engage their students with a behind-the-scenes look at REAL science and engineering, and in this very moment of history.


Inspire … Then Educate: A Broader Commitment to Education

At this Special Post, I’ve also put together a sub-page that can serve as a one-stop-shop for information on MESSENGER and the science objectives for the flyby, and lists of activities, lessons, and educational resources. It’s meant to help you place the live coverage within a broader, richer science education experience that grows from National Science Education Standards, and offers deep curricular connections in the earth and space sciences. The idea is to inspire …then educate. The historic event provides the inspiration, and the resources leverage discussions on the nature of exploration, the nature of the Solar System, and MESSENGER and its mission at Mercury. Isn’t this precisely the curricular landscape in which MESSENGER resides?


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