Earlier this week, the MESSENGER spacecraft made a close flyby of the planet Mercury in the first encounter with the planet in almost 33 years. The flyby is the first maneuver in a series of braking steps that will hopefully leave MESSENGER in orbit around Mercury in 2011. The name MESSENGER comes from “MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, Geochemistry, and Ranging,” a listing of some of the goals for the mission. During the flyby, the craft was able to capture close-up images of portions of the Sun's nearest neighbor that were in shadow when Mariner 10 flew past Mercury three times in 1974 and 1975. In this segment, Ira talks with a planetary scientist about the mission's goals, and about what researchers are seeing in the new images of Mercury being returned by the spacecraft this week.
Produced by Charles Bergquist, Director and Contributing Producer