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After a journey of more than 2 billion miles and three and a half years, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft flew by Mercury on Jan. 14, 2008, and it has beamed back some surprises.

"This flyby allowed us to see a part of the planet never before viewed by spacecraft, and our little craft has returned a gold mine of exciting data," said Sean Solomon, MESSENGER's principal investigator at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. The spacecraft's cameras and other sensors collected more than 1,200 images and made the first up-close measurements of Mercury since Mariner 10 visited the planet in the mid-1970s.



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