Spacecraft smashes into Mercury

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It has spent ten years in space and 4 years orbiting the planet mercury but Nasa’s Messenger mission has ended with a bang.

The spacecraft had run out of fuel and so it was deliberately crashed into the planet at 14,081 kilometres per hour.

The high-speed collision occurred at a speed ten times faster than sound and destroyed the little spacecraft.

Scientists on Earth confirmed the collision had taken place at around 8pm on Thursday when Messenger’s communication stopped.

The 3m craft weighed about half as much as a small car but will still have made a crater the size of a tennis court on the surface of the planet.

Messenger was able to hit Mercury’s surface because the planet has no thick atmosphere to burn up incoming objects. This means the planet is struck by similarly-sized meteors once every month or two – and those collide with Mercury ten times faster than Messenger did.

Messenger reached Mercury in 2011. Since then, it has sent back to Earth over 270,000 images of the planet.

It found evidence for water ice in the planet’s shadowy polar craters, and discovered that Mercury’s magnetic field is weirdly off-centre, shifted along the planet’s axis by 10% of its diameter.

11 Responses

  1. wow it made a crater the size of a tennis court on mercury! I wish they had a photo of the crater so I could see what it looks like! OMG, OMG OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. This is actually a pretty cool article and I quite like space so it is rather interesting for me.

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