arbitraryaardvark writes "NASA's Messenger probe flew past Mercury at a distance of 125 miles. The spacecraft took hundreds of pictures during the pass, updating photos from the now 30-year-old Mariner mission. According to an article at the International Business Times, the probe will eventually settle into orbit around Mercury in 2011. 'The images obtained by the $446 million MESSENGER mission (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) this week contain some of those unexplored areas. One image released Saturday was taken after Messenger made its closest approach to Mercury last week. In the photos released this week, scientists have observed unexplored cratered areas of the planet. On Monday, Messenger made its closest approach to Mercury yet, aiming for new discoveries. Among its goals is to discover if Mercury has ice water in its polar craters and to complete the mapping of the whole planet.' Meanwhile here on Earth, a joint EU/Japan probe with an ion drive is set to head towards Mercury sometime in 2013."