Mercury Messenger NASA Info

In 1998, a study detailed a proposed mission to send an orbiting spacecraft to Mercury, as the planet was at that point the least-explored of the inner planets. In the years following the Mariner 10 mission, subsequent mission proposals to revisit Mercury had appeared too costly, requiring large quantities of propellant and a heavy lift launch vehicle. Moreover, inserting a spacecraft into orbit around Mercury is difficult, because a probe approaching on a direct path from Earth would be accelerated by the Sun’s gravity and pass Mercury far too quickly to orbit it. However, using a trajectory designed by Chen-wan Yen in 1985, the study showed it was possible to seek a Discovery-class mission by using multiple, consecutive gravity assist, ‘swingby’ maneuvers around Venus and Mercury, in combination with minor propulsive trajectory corrections, to gradually slow the spacecraft and thereby minimize propellant needs.

The team of scientists used data gathered by NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, composed of a duo of twin spacecraft that circled Earth's Moon throughout 2012, each measuring the push and pull of the other as an indicator of lunar gravity. Saturn is a lovely planet, with its magnificent system of gossamer rings, shining moons of ice, and myriads of glimmering, frozen, dancing moonlets that twirl and somersault both inside and outside of the enchanting system of rings. Other than the sun, no other celestial body significantly affects the earth as the moon does. It is well know that the moon affects the rise and fall of the ocean tide. Such is the effect of the gravitational pull between the earth and the moon. Jupiter is easily the largest planet in our solar system. To put its size in context, Jupiter is more than 300 times the mass of Earth. Here is the interesting part; Jupiter has 63 moons that orbit it and yet it is not the planet in the Solar System with the most moons. That honor belongs to the ringed-planet Saturn, which has 66 moons identified so far. Pluto, the farthest flung among the nine planets, has been the subject of heated debate on whether it really qualifies to be considered a planet. Nowadays, it is classified as a dwarf planet. Its orbit around the Sun is somewhat heavily elliptical. In fact, there are instances where Pluto is actually closer to the Sun than Neptune, the planet that precedes it.