As Mercury Turns

Okay, so here I am in the Situation Room of the MESSENGER mission ops center.  It is 4:414 in the morning and I have had a total of three hours of sleep since 5AM Friday.  I cannot take photos to show because of National Security concerns(insert your own lame joke here.)  You see the facility is also used by our military and they have some issues with cameras.  More and more people keep showing up and currently there are over twenty people with laptps in the room all typing away.  I have had a couple of conversations with the engineers here and you can feel the tension.  Currently the MESSENGER spacecraft has turned away from Earth and is taking photos.  You can see them live at MESSENGER Visualization.

I was talking with Jim McAdams, the Mission Design Lead Engineer, about what parts of Mercury will be seen after the flyby. Interestingly, he showed me a composite image of Mercury with images from Mariner 10, Arecibo’s radar false color images, and MESSENGER’s images from Flyby #1.  The differences in detail was amazing and I will try to get access to the images to post.  Flyby #2 will fill in all the gaps and get real photo images of the Arecibo’s area until we will have seen all but 5% of Mercury’s surface.  And i will be here as that comes in. How cool is that?

I have just asked for photos of the room and people so that I can post them.  Hopefully I will get them soon.

51 seconds to closest approach…and counting

The closest approach was very close to what was expected.  And how cool is this.  The team decided to use the solar panels as solar sails to adjust the spacecraft and its path.  this was never planned for and was done for the first time ever anywhere.  That is what engineers and scientists can do on the fly when given a chance – make history doing the previously impossible.

Louise Prockter Instrument Scientist for MDIS, explained to me about the compression routines used for the data – or really the lack of them.  Very little compression is done since compression loses data.  Interesting note is that MESSENGER only has an 8 Gig storage capability which has to be downloaded before more information can be gathered.

On October 15th the mESSENGER satellite will be traveling at 148,000 miles per hour relative to the sun.  This will be the second fastest speed ever for a manmade object.


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