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MESSENGER flies past Mercury
Posted: Tue, Jan 15, 2008, 7:49 AM ET (1249 GMT)
MESSENGER illustration (JHUAPL) NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft flew past the planet MErcury on Monday, the first time a spacecraft has visited the solar system's innermost planet in over three decades. MESSENGER passed 200 kilometers above the surface of Mercury at 2:04 pm EST (1904 GMT) Monday, and the spacecraft performed as planned during the flyby. The spacecraft will begin transmitting images and other data collected during the flyby on Tuesday. The observations will include portions of the planet now seen by the only other spacecraft to visit Mercury, Mariner 10, which performed three flybys of Mercury in the mid-1970s. The flyby is the first of three MESSENGER will perform through September 2009 before the spacecraft enters orbit around the planet in 2011. MESSENGER was launched in 2004 and performed one flyby of Earth and two of Venus en route to Mercury.
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