Excerpt from malaysiandigest.com
NASA confirmed Thursday afternoon that its Messenger spacecraft collided into Mercury’s surface at more than 8,000 mph, creating a new crater on the planet.
“Going out with a bang as it impacts the surface of Mercury, we are celebrating Messenger as more than a successful mission,” John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate said. “The Messenger mission will continue to provide scientists with a bonanza of new results as we begin the next phase of this mission — analyzing the exciting data already in the archives, and unraveling the mysteries of Mercury.”
But before Messenger’s years-long mission came an end, NASA released several new photos of Mercury, as taken by the spacecraft. Some of these photos were composite imagery, combining years of data and photos collected by Messenger, according to CNET.
Here’s one of the incredible false-color images recently published by NASA. The different colors signify variations in mineral composition, topography and other factors on Mercury’s surface.
io9 reports that the spacecraft, which was the first to orbit Mercury, captured some 270,000 images of the planet during its four-year mission. The website also said the impact will create a 52-foot-wide crater in Mercury’s surface.
The spacecraft made several big discoveries during its mission, including the presence of ice in some dark craters near the poles, according to The New York Times. That’s pretty big news on a planet that reaches temperatures as high as 800 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.
The mission ended, according to NASA, because the spacecraft’s thrusters have run out of fuel.