NASA Satellite MESSENGER Sends Back First Image of Mercury from Orbit

NASA image captured March 29, 2011


Early this morning, at 5:20 am EDT, MESSENGER captured this historic image of Mercury. This image is the first ever obtained from a spacecraft in orbit about the Solar System's innermost planet. Over the subsequent six hours, MESSENGER acquired an additional 363 images before downlinking some of the data to Earth. The MESSENGER team is currently looking over the newly returned data, which are still continuing to come down.


The dominant rayed crater in the upper portion of the image is Debussy. The smaller crater Matabei with its unusual dark rays is visible to the west of Debussy. The bottom portion of this image is near Mercury's south pole and includes a region of Mercury's surface not previously seen by spacecraft.


Over the next three days, MESSENGER will acquire 1185 additional images in support of MDIS commissioning-phase activities. The year-long primary science phase of the mission will begin on April 4, and the orbital observation plan calls for MDIS to acquire more than 75,000 images in support of MESSENGER's science goals.


On March 17, 2011 (March 18, 2011, UTC), MESSENGER became the first spacecraft to orbit the planet Mercury. The mission is currently in its commissioning phase, during which spacecraft and instrument performance are verified through a series of specially designed checkout activities. In the course of the one-year primary mission, the spacecraft's seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation will unravel the history and evolution of the Solar System's innermost planet. Visit the Why Mercury? section of this website to learn more about the science questions that the MESSENGER mission has set out to answer.


Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington


Credit: NASA Earth Observatory


To learn more about MESSENGER go to:


NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.


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  • Rosário Marques 4y

  • Jamie Ball 4y

    A giant ball of iron! :)
  • tigeray666 4y

    Brilliant stuff!
  • Atsah Images 4y

    Fantastic. I hope you will be showing us more.
  • Cantalia Irata 4y

    Wonderful shot!
  • Bob 4y

    Congratulations to everyone who has worked on this extraordinary mission!
  • Rosário Marques 4y

    Thanks for sharing.

    EXCELLENT! seen in
    " (point of view)comment on 1 sweeper active"

    collect 5 awards to get the excellence award
  • E2Pilot 4y

    Looks like.....the moon....speaking of which....WHY are we spending money on Mercury when w SHOULD be spending it on sending men back to the Moon...or...Mars?
  • Shutter_Hand 4y

  • Shutter_Hand 4y

    E2Pilot Why do we have 300 channels on TV, V8 SUV's with only one person inside, 60" LED tv's, etc., when we could end world poverty and hunger?

    We will never know.

    it was possible - in 1969 - to see Apollo's 11 mission from Earth?
    I mean, can the soviets "watch" live with a telescope Armstrong walking in the Moon?
    I guess it was possible...but let me know your answer NASA people.

  • Raja Shekar 4y

    Does any one have any details about the camera or the Imaging device used??? :D
  • Tim Hoeflich 4y

    Amazing , congratulations and great first image from orbit.
  • George Kristiansen 4y

    Congrats - the sharpness and beauty of this image make me look forward to what's to come!
  • Doda -Maryoga 4y

    Indeed a historic image,accompanied with interesting,engaging details.
  • Kevin Moore 4y

    Exciting imagery!
  • ivanich 4y

    Thanks for sharing, congratulations, enormous success on March 17th.
  • Moosushi 4y

    Love this! And rock on NASA!
  • 4y

    WOW now thats cool }:0)
  • ojo_de_vidrio 4y

    Tremenda imagen.
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Uploaded on March 29, 2011
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