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NASA Space Science

Messenger Probe Sends Back Mercury Photos 137

Posted by Zonk
from the been-a-while-since-we-were-there dept.
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."
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Messenger Probe Sends Back Mercury Photos

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  • Fake photos (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Sunday January 20, 2008 @08:19PM (#22121358)
    The fakes were made by the same people who faked the moon landings, so what do you expect?

    But really, I'm disappointed. How many millions of dollars and how much waiting just to see more photos of a vaguely spherical object with lots of cratering. This is not the 90s folks. They really need to make flashier pictures if they want to get the public interest.

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Sunday January 20, 2008 @08:21PM (#22121384)
    I imagine that many people thought the same about the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, until Voyager started sending back pictures of Europa and Io. You never know where the next big insight is going to come from, and Mercury's had little enough attention for it to be worth a look. Mars is pretty substantially covered. That said, in the current funding climate (NASA's had to cancel projects left, right, and centre due to cuts to its thin post-Iraq budget), nobody would approve a mission to a rock like Mercury.
  • Re:Miles? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by corsec67 (627446) on Sunday January 20, 2008 @08:22PM (#22121402) Homepage Journal
    Well, even NASA has [] problems [] with missions [] around this planet, during manned missions that should be held to a much higher standard.

    (Not to mention problems with a mission [] that was just doing training on the ground)

    But, the Mars Rovers [], Apollo 11 [], and this mission are examples where NASA gets stuff very right.

    (I hope I am not just putting gasoline and a lit fusee on the fire [], like my dad is doing to that car there)
  • Re:Mercury = moon? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dan Schulz (1144089) on Sunday January 20, 2008 @08:28PM (#22121442)

    Why does it look like the moon?
    Because like with every other terrestrial world in the inner solar system, it's been bombarded by meteors, asteroids and the like for over four billion years. Combine that with the lack of any real atmosphere (yes, I know about the thin hydrogen atmosphere, but let's be serious for a moment, shall we?), you're not going to have enough meteorological energy (weather) to start eroding those craters. Same with geological activity (there likely isn't any). Besides, given the large apparent size of the planet's core, this may be all that's left of the world.

    why is it in black & white?
    I'm not an engineer, but I think they went with B/W images to actually get better results with the camera. I'm sure there are a few engineers here and I know there are people who know a lot more about this particular subject than I do, so I'll let them explain further if they chooes to. Hope that helps.
  • by Speare (84249) on Sunday January 20, 2008 @08:43PM (#22121544) Homepage Journal
    And yet, would it be funded by Congress if it didn't get an easy-to-remember name? Would the USAPATRIOT act have been voted up to the White House if it was simply voted on as HR3162 or "Ashcroft's Wet Dream Panopticon Act of 2001"? Sometimes it takes a bit of focus testing and a shiny veneer of shinola to get approval from those who have the power but not the understanding.
  • by Joe Tie. (567096) on Sunday January 20, 2008 @09:01PM (#22121678)
    Engineers seem to be at the top of groups 'most' often afflicted with bad pun syndrome, so I wouldn't put it past them.
  • by sanman2 (928866) on Sunday January 20, 2008 @09:55PM (#22122090)
    Where's the damn color? I don't understand why after all these decades, it's so hard for them to take color photos. Just slap a damn Sony camcorder on there if you have to, and take some regular color pictures, to show what our own eyes would perceive if we were there.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 20, 2008 @10:47PM (#22122422)
    "the public affairs officials think you are too stupid to understand kilometers"

    Unless you are...
    - raised on the metric system
    - currently in school and dealing with metrics
    - are or were in the army (klicks ftw)
    - are in a scientific field primarily using the metric system

    chances are that yes, you are indeed too stupid to understand kilometers.

    Now don't get me wrong - not saying you're too stupid to calculate how many miles a given kilometers figure would be... but just because you can do the math doesn't mean you grasp the concept.

    If somebody tells me something is 350 miles away then I, for one, wouldn't have the foggiest how far that would be right that very instant. I have to calculate.. (350*1.5 is 525, add another 10%, 525+35...) 560. Okay, I know how far that is. Now that calculation takes place pretty fast, but it still needed to be done.
    If somebody tells me something is 350 kilometers away, I know immediately how far that is*

    So it's not that people are truly too stupid to be able to say how many miles a given kilometer figure is - it's just 'instantly' recognizable for people if it's in the unit they're used to

    * to a limit, of course. I don't know how far 7800 kilometers is - I don't have any frame of reference for figures that large. Similarly, 45nanometer processes are lost on me in terms of scale.. I just know it's really, really, really f'ing small, and about 2/3rds the size of a 65nm process.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Monday January 21, 2008 @12:00PM (#22127042)
    The great thing about NASA is they now release raw photos on the web within days. The ESA only releases occasional publicity photos from its Mars and Venus orbitors. They have a one-year embargo so the scientists can publish results first. That was NASA's policy too a long time ago. ESA might be doing interesting stuff, but nobody's going to hear about it.

    Raw photos arent the best for scientific study. They have to have shape and lighting/color distortion corrected, and composited into larger photos or animations. NASA releases corrected photos a few months later.
  • Re:Miles? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Trogre (513942) on Monday January 21, 2008 @07:02PM (#22131784) Homepage
    Well to be fair, most of their audience will be American.

Money can't buy happiness, but it can make you awfully comfortable while you're being miserable. -- C.B. Luce