It’s been 2,417 days, 13 hours, 18 minutes and several seconds since the desk-sized spacecraft Messenger was sent spiraling towards Mercury. And now the long journey is about to end as Messenger will try to enter Mercury’s orbit in less than 6 hours.
Messenger, MErcury Surface Space ENvironment GEochemistry and Ranging, was shipped off into space back in August ’04. The mission is to conduct the very first orbital studies of Mercury and to survey the surface for a year. Could there be any risks? Absolutely. Messenger will have to fend for itself against the sun’s gravitational pull as it begins to orbit. If it fails, $446 million of worthless junk will be floating around that big bright thing in our sky.
Cross your fingers! It happens tonight at 8:45PM (EDT).