A robotic spacecraft that circled Mercury detected magnetized rocks, evidence that planet’s still-roiling, liquid metal core likely spawned a global magnetic field as far back as about 3.8 billion years ago.
At 3:26 p.m. ET today (Thursday), NASA's MESSENGER mission to the innermost planet of the solar system came to a dramatic end, smashing into Mercury's surface at a speed of over 8,700 miles per hour.
As it zoomed danger-close to small planet's surface at a mind-boggling 8,700 miles per hour, MESSENGER managed to beam one last look at the Mercurian landscape back to Earth.
The spacecraft is expected to crash onto the planet's surface at a searing 8,750 miles per hour -- fast enough to carve out a crater 52 feet wide.
NASA has released a map of the region where the spacecraft is expected to crash.
NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft is in the final days of an unprecedented and unexpectedly long-lived, close-up study of the innermost planet of the solar system, with a crashing finale expected in two weeks.
As MESSENGER heads into the last few weeks of its mission, it continues to reveal more information about unusual features on Mercury.
Engineers have found a way to buy some time for the MESSENGER spacecraft, which was due to end its four-year mission in March with a suicidal plunge.
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