|Image credit: SPACE.com.|
The Messenger (short for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) spacecraft also made space history last week by orbiting Mercury. The primary purpose of the $446 million, 1-year mission is to discover whether or not ice actually exists on the planet of extremes. At only an average of 35,983,605.7 miles from the sun, and too small for its gravity to retain an atmosphere, the surface is blasted with unimaginable heat on the sunny side and drops to hundreds of degrees below zero on the shady side. Messenger is the first spacecraft to visit Mercury since NASA’s Mariner 10 mission in 1970.