Monday, July 27, 2015

Science is cool: NASA's Mercury Messenger images

NASA's Messenger mission has made some incredible images of Mercury over it's lifetime.   Find them here.

Here is NASA's description:

 The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft's seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation are unraveling the history and evolution of the solar system's innermost planet. In the mission's more than four years of orbital operations, MESSENGER has acquired over 250,000 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER's highly successful orbital mission is about to come to an end, as the spacecraft runs out of propellant and the force of solar gravity causes it to impact the surface of Mercury near the end of April 2015.

Interesting to note; the messenger spacecraft spent over 3 years in orbit collecting data. Imagine a crewed spacecraft lasting 3 years in space over Mercury!

The fact is that unmanned space craft have incredible working lives collecting more data than a human mission could ever accomplish. To think of exploring using humans might seem reasonable but it's a romantic idea not a practical one. Sending a robot makes more sense and accomplishes more per kg than a human crewed mission ever would.  While people like a human interest story, we would explore more of the universe faster using robots.

Messenger died 30 April 2015.