WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 (UPI) — NASA says its Messenger spacecraft has made its third and final flyby of Mercury, providing, for the first time, a nearly complete view of the planet.
The space agency said the Sept. 29 flyby also provided new scientific findings about the relatively unknown world.
The Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging spacecraft known as Messenger made the flyby while completing a critical gravity assist to remain on course to enter into orbit around Mercury in 2011. NASA said the spacecraft’s cameras and instruments collected high-resolution and color images unveiling another 6 percent of the planet’s surface never before seen at close range.
Approximately 98 percent of Mercury’s surface now has been imaged by NASA spacecraft, leaving just the polar regions as the only unobserved areas of the planet.
The spacecraft has completed nearly three-quarters of its 4.9-billion-mile journey to enter orbit around Mercury, NASA said, noting the full trip will include more than 15 trips around the sun. In addition to flying by Mercury, the spacecraft flew past Earth in August 2005 and Venus in October 2006 and June 2007.
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