Messenger Spacecraft Is Closing in on Mercury Crash-Landing
J Thoendell stashed this in Space
One of the most important things we now know thanks to Messenger is that Mercury is abundant in volatile elements, which ruled out many of the competing theories regarding its formation and early history. Previously, scientists thought Mercury was far too hot for these elements to stick around. But volatiles like chlorine, sulfur and potassium evaporate at moderate temperatures, which means scientists needed to rethink how Mercury — and the rest of the solar system’s bodies — formed.
A combination image by NASA from the Mercury Atmosphere and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS) instrument aboard NASA’s Messenger, released April 16. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics) Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
Messenger also found evidence that frozen water is present in permanently shadowed craters that are located in Mercury’s polar regions. The ice is either present on the surface, or just centimeters below. You can check out the rest of Messenger’s greatest hits as compiled by NASA. And, lest we forget, Messenger also took thousands of photos and completely mapped Mercury’s surface.
A European and Japanese joint venture called BepiColombo will serve as Messenger’s successor, and another spacecraft is planned to launch in 2017 and arrive at Mercury in 2024. All in all, Messenger was a “fantastic” mission says Johannes Benkhoff, project scientist for BepiColombo at the European Space Agency.
I'm trying to get answers from a NASA PR to my questions around that crash:
How was this crash decided?
For what scientific reasons?
Was the ethics of doing such a thing on another world discussed?
Was there a discussion with other space agencies or was it the decision of NASA alone?
Good questions. Here are a few Reddit comments on the subject:
I read them, non answer my questions.
I'm asking twittos, no results for now.
As far as I can tell, the crash was decided because out of fuel, not scientific reasons.
That's not a valid argument, they could have made it burn in the sun or send it to interstellar space.
They deliberately chose to crash it on the planet, probably to see what will happens and also very probably to say "HEY LOOK WE AMERICANS ARE THE FIRST TO PUT SOMETHING ON MERCURY LOOK HOW GOOD AND AWESOME WE ARE".
More likely to see what happens than to say "hey look we Americans" since I think most Americans don't know and don't care that we're crashing a spacecraft on Mercury.