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This stunning image was taken by Mercury's WAC about 90 minutes after MESSENGER's closest approach to Mercury, when the spacecraft was at a distance of about 27,000 kilometers (about 17,000 miles) JHU/APL.

MESSENGER is a scientific investigation of the planet Mercury. Understanding Mercury, and the forces that have shaped it, is fundamental to understanding the terrestrial planets and their evolution.

MESSENGER is a MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging mission to orbit Mercury following three flybys of that planet. The orbital phase will use the flyby data as an initial guide to perform a focused scientific investigation of this enigmatic world.

MESSENGER is investigating key scientific questions regarding Mercury's characteristics and environment during these two complementary mission phases. Data are provided by an optimized set of seven miniaturized space instruments and the spacecraft telecommunications system.

MESSENGER was launched successfully on 3 August 2004. On 2 August 2005, MESSENGER's flyby of the Earth-Moon system took place. Two flybys of Venus occurred on 24 October 2006 and 5 June 2007. The first two flybys of Mercury were on 14 January and 6 October 2008, and the third Mercury flyby was on 29 September 2009. MESSENGER successfully entered into orbit about Mercury on 18 March 2011.  A full Earth-year of orbital observations are now underway for the remainder of the nominal mission.

MESSENGER is led by Sean C. Solomon, Staff Member and former Director of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism.