(MEDIA GENERAL) – After nearly 11 years in space, the robotic spacecraft MESSENGER is scheduled to crash into Mercury Thursday, April 30 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
MESSENGER is out of fuel and there are no ways to make major adjustments to its orbit. So, this afternoon, it will smash into Mercury at 8,750 miles per hour. The impact will create a new crater on the planet’s surface as wide as 52 feet.
MESSENGER, named for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging, launched in 2004 and became the first mission to ever orbit Mercury in 2011.
During its mission, MESSENGER made some significant discoveries about Mercury.
- Mercury’s surface is rich with chemistry and volatiles
- MESSENGER photographed “hollows” were material seemed to boil away under the sun
- MESSENGER found Mercury shrunk seven kilometers
- MESSENGER found deposits of water ice in polar craters where the sun never shines
The next mission scheduled for Mercury is a European Space Agency mission set to arrive in the 2020s.
You can watch a live stream of MESSENGER crashing into Mercury. The stream is scheduled to start at 3:00 ET. http://live.slooh.com/stadium/live/the-end-of-the-mercury-messenger-spacecraft