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NASA extends MESSENGER mission


The crater at the center of this image is home to more of the "hollows" that dot Mercury's surface. Photo: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington.

WASHINGTON (BNS): NASA has announced that it will extend the MESSENGER mission for an additional year of orbital operations at Mercury beyond the planned end of the primary mission on March 17, 2012.

The MESSENGER probe became the first spacecraft to orbit the innermost planet on March 18, 2011.

"We are still ironing out the funding details, but we are pleased to be able to support the continued exploration of Mercury," said NASA MESSENGER Program Scientist Ed Grayzeck.

The extended mission will allow scientists to learn even more about the planet closest to the Sun, said MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

"During the extended mission we will spend more time close to the planet than during the primary mission, we'll have a broader range of scientific objectives, and we'll be able to make many more targeted observations with our imaging system and other instruments," he said.

"MESSENGER will also be able to view the innermost planet as solar activity continues to increase toward the next maximum in the solar cycle. Mercury's responses to the changes in its environment over that period promise to yield new surprises."

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NASA  MESSENGER  Mercury  

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