Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Those are two dates to keep an eye on if you're interested in the mission, and you can see the press release here. It may seem a bit odd to have a mission to Mercury go about getting there by passing by its destination a total of three times, but that's what happens when you get that close to the Sun and then need to slow down in order to go into orbit around the much smaller Mercury. This is the last flyby until arrival at Mercury on March 18, 2011.
MESSENGER will swing by Mercury at a height of 200 km. This is given as 142 miles in the press release, obviously just 200 divided by 1.6. You can always tell which unit was used for official purposes and which was derived for the press release.
Thanks to MESSENGER the surface area of Mercury that we have mapped has gone from 45% before the mission to 75% now.
To listen to the news conference on the 23rd, see here. 1 p.m. EDT means 2 a.m. over here in Korea on the morning of the 24th, which is perfect - exactly 47 hours from now.