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Missions to Mercury

Missions to Mercury

Publication date: 07 November 2007

Authors: Balogh, A., et al.

Journal: Space Science Reviews
Volume: 132
Issue: 2-4
Page: 611-645
Year: 2007

Copyright: Springer

Mercury is a very difficult planet to observe from the Earth, and space missions that target Mercury are essential for a comprehensive understanding of the planet. At the same time, it is also difficult to orbit because it is deep inside the Sun's gravitational well. Only one mission has visited Mercury; that was Mariner 10 in the 1970s. This paper provides a brief history of Mariner 10 and the numerous imaginative but unsuccessful mission proposals since the 1970s for another Mercury mission. In the late 1990s, two missions - MESSENGER and BepiColombo - received the go-ahead; MESSENGER is on its way to its first encounter with Mercury in January 2008. The history, scientific objectives, mission designs, and payloads of both these missions are described in detail.

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