Sunday, January 13, 2008
Tomorrow, the MESSENGER spacecraft will pass within 125 miles of Mercury's surface on the first of three flybys before settling into orbit in 2011. This is only the third time a spacecraft has made a flyby of Mercury and the first in over 30 years. Despite being much closer than Mars or the gas giants, we have never landed on Mercury or put a satellite in orbit around it. We have mapped less than half of its surface. Even this one fast flyby will vastly increase our knowledge of the tiny planet. And all for far less than we spend on one day in Iraq.