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<MESSENGER is Final Flyby of Mercury ⁄ >




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NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft will fly by Mercury for the third and final time on Sept. 29. MESSENGER will pass less than 142 miles above the planet's rocky surface for a final gravity assist required to enter Mercury's orbit in 2011.

"This flyby is our final planetary gravity assist, so it is important for the entire encounter to be executed as planned," said Sean Solomon, principal investigator at the Carnegie Institution in Washington. "As enticing as these flybys have been for discovering some of Mercury's secrets, they are the hors d'oeuvres to the mission's main course -- observing Mercury from orbit for an entire year."



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