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Hopkins Spacecraft Becomes First to Orbit Mercury Tonight

March 17, 2011

Artist's concept of MESSENGER orbiting Mercury.

At 9 p.m. today, NASA’s MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging) will become the first spacecraft to enter Mercury’s orbit. The craft, which is operated by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, has been racing through the inner solar system for the last six and a half years and will transmit the first new data from Mercury since Mariner 10 crossed the planet’s orbit in 1973.

NASA TV will carry a webcast from the APL’s mission control building in Laurel from 8-10 p.m. And, the APL has a nifty program available to download that allows you to explore MESSENGER’s Mercury imaging through Google Earth.

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