The pioneering MErcury Surface, Space Environment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) mission will orbit the mysterious terrestrial planet, looking closely at its surface, its crust, its atmosphere—even its magnetic field. Loaded with seven advanced scientific instruments and one radio science experiment to pack in as much science as possible, the spacecraft makes the most of the first mission to Mercury since 1975. One of MESSENGER's goals is to learn as much as possible about Mercury's topography—its barren, pockmarked surface. Three scientific instruments were specially designed to study Mercury's surface. To become the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury, MESSENGER followed a path through the inner solar system, including one flyby of Earth, two flybys of Venus, and three flybys of Mercury. This impressive journey yielded the first return of new spacecraft data from Mercury since the Mariner 10 mission more than 30 years ago.
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