SA's Mercury mission given last lease of life

Washington, March 30: SA engineers have lifted the orbit of the Mercury probe - currently operating on an extended mission and almost out of fuel - and delayed its inevitable impact into Mercury’s surface by up to a month. Launched in August 2004, the $450 million MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging (Messenger) mission is currently orbiting our solar system’s innermost planet. In March 2011, Messenger became the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. “We decided on a strategy that includes five maneuvers in as many weeks to keep the spacecraft within a tight altitude range of 5 to 39 km above the surface of Mercury at closest approach,” said Jim McAdams, Messenger mission’s design lead engineer from Johns Hopkins University in a statement. The next such maneuver is scheduled for April 2. With these maneuvers, Messenger could keep observing Mercury till April 30. (IANS)

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