Here’s #11 of my Digital Media Studies Master’s Project. MESSENGER is actually an acronym that stands for — wait for it — Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging. Ah, NASA and our acronyms! It was launched in 2004 to study all those things in its long name and is only the second mission to reach Mercury, and the first since 1975.
Fun fact: Since Mercury is closer to the sun, getting there actually requires that a spacecraft slow down so it can “fall” towards the tiny planet. To go straight to Mercury and brake all at once would have required more fuel than the spacecraft could carry, so MESSENGER took several laps through the inner solar system including one flyby of Earth, two flybys of Venus, and three flybys of Mercury itself before finally arriving in orbit in 2011. The flybys allowed the spacecraft to use each planet’s gravitational force to incrementally slow itself down until it was finally slow enough to go into orbit around Mercury. Neat, huh?
If you’ve been paying attention, you will notice that I reused the sun I created for my SOHO poster. Sneaky but resourceful. Jose helped with this one too by providing some good suggestions on how to make Mercury appear a little more planet-like without losing the stylized look.