The MESSENGER mission to Mercury: Scientific objectives and implementation

Sean C. Solomon, Ralph L. McNutt, Robert E. Gold, Mario H. Acuña, Daniel N. Baker, William V. Boynton, Clark R. Chapman, Andrew F. Cheng, George Gloeckler, James W. Head, Stamatios M. Krimigis, William E. McClintock, Scott L. Murchie, Stanton J. Peale, Roger J. Phillips, Mark S. Robinson, James A. Slavin, David E. Smith, Robert G. Strom, Jacob I. TrombkaMaria T. Zuber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

352 Scopus citations


Mercury holds answers to several critical questions regarding the formation and evolution of the terrestrial planets. These questions include the origin of Mercury's anomalously high ratio of metal to silicate and its implications for planetary accretion processes, the nature of Mercury's geological evolution and interior cooling history, the mechanism of global magnetic field generation, the state of Mercury's core, and the processes controlling volatile species in Mercury's polar deposits, exosphere, and magnetosphere. The MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) mission has been designed to fly by and orbit Mercury to address all of these key questions. After launch by a Delta 2925H-9.5, two flybys of Venus, and two flybys of Mercury, orbit insertion is accomplished at the third Mercury encounter. The instrument payload includes a dual imaging system for wide and narrow fields-of-view, monochrome and color imaging, and stereo; X-ray and combined gamma-ray and neutron spectrometers for surface chemical mapping; a magnetometer; a laser altimeter; a combined ultraviolet-visible and visible-near-infrared spectrometer to survey both exospheric species and surface mineralogy; and an energetic particle and plasma spectrometer to sample charged species in the magnetosphere. During the flybys of Mercury, regions unexplored by Mariner 10 will be seen for the first time, and new data will be gathered on Mercury's exosphere, magnetosphere, and surface composition. During the orbital phase of the mission, one Earth year in duration, MESSENGER will complete global mapping and the detailed characterization of the exosphere, magnetosphere, surface, and interior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1445-1465
Number of pages21
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Issue number14-15
StatePublished - Dec 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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