Headlines > News > MESSENGER Went Into Safe Mode Approaching Mercury

MESSENGER Went Into Safe Mode Approaching Mercury

Published by Matt on Wed Sep 30, 2009 2:47 pm via: source
Share
More share options
Tools
Tags

Written by Nancy Atkinson

The MESSENGER spacecraft went into safe mode just before its closest approach of Mercury on Sept. 29. Although the instruments were taking data as the spacecraft came near the planet during this third flyby of the mission, after going into safe mode, no further data or pictures were obtained.

Previously unseen side of Mercury. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Previously unseen side of Mercury. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

This means the expected science investigations from the flyby were not executed. However, as Emily Lakdawalla pointed on in the Planetary Blog, the most important purpose of this flyby was the last gravity assist that’ll allow MESSENGER to enter orbit in 2011, and to that end, the flyby was a complete success. Additionally, the images taken during the approach are of areas on Mercury previously unseen, as in the image above. See more images from the approach below.

A High-resolution Look over Mercury's Northern Horizon. Credit: MESSENGER Team

A High-resolution Look over Mercury's Northern Horizon. Credit: MESSENGER Team

MESSENGER skimmed just 142 miles (228 km) above Mercury at closest approach, and then whipped behind the planet for the gravity assist. During the operation, five MESSENGER “fellows” or master teachers were reporting the flyby live via Twitter. Gene Gordon (Porchdragon on Twitter) reported that unexpectedly, the signal dropped from MESSENGER before the expected signal blackout while flying on the other side of Mercury: “Suddenly the room got quiet and people hovering near computers. Unexpected signal drop just occurred. Sense of nervousness seems to have happened.”

The MESSENGER team had to wait over 50 minutes until the spacecraft emerged from behind Mercury, and were relieved to be able to resume contact. As of Wednesday morning, the spacecraft was operating normally, and the reason for the signal drop was unclear.

MESSENGER made its closest approach on Tuesday at about 5:55 p.m. EDT (2155 GMT), zooming at speeds of about 12,000 mph (19,312 kph). Mercury’s gravity was expected to slow MESSENGER by about 6,000 mph (9,656 kph) during the flyby and place it on track to enter orbit of Mercury in March 2011.

No comments
Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this article!
Leave a reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
© 2014 The International Space Fellowship, developed by Gabitasoft Interactive. All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy | Terms of Use