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MESSENGER flies past Earth
Posted: Wed, Aug 3, 2005, 8:30 AM ET (1230 GMT)
MESSENGER illustration (JHUAPL) One year after launch, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft flew past the Earth Tuesday en route to its final destination, Mercury. MESSENGER passed 2,347 km over central Mongolia at 3:13 pm EDT (1913 GMT) Tuesday, one day shy of the first anniversary of its launch from Cape Canaveral. the flyby adjusted the spacecraft's orbit, putting it on course for a flyby of Venus in October 2006. That flyby, as well as a second in June 2007, will allow MESSENGER to reach Mercury in early 2008. Three flybys of Mercury will take place through September 2009, setting it up to finally enter orbit around the innermost in 2011. MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging), is the first mission to visit Mercury since Mariner 10 three decades ago, and the first to go into orbit around the small, rocky world.
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