I love, and I mean LOVE, all the coolness coming from MESSENGER. I was alive when the Voyagers first visited Jupiter, but I was only 8. I have a strong memory of seeing the images in National Geographic and hearing about the missions from Carl Sagan on Cosmos, yet I didn’t grasp the uniqueness of the moment. We’ve explored a couple of those outer bodies in great detail since that time, but you can only first explore an area once. And now those places can only be re-visited.
I love the flybys of Mercury. Up until MESSENGER this was the best picture we had:
I’ve been looking hard at that picture ever since I can remember. It was taken by the Mariner 10 way back in 1974. When I entered the planetarium field and started producing public shows, there were several processed mosaic images available for me to use. The best recognized one even shows quite a bit of one side of the planet. But I always liked this one best. It shows well the technological limits of the time and the sparse detail we knew of that distant orb.
MESSENGER passed by Mercury a couple of weeks ago. This is what it saw:
We have now mapped 95% of the surface of Mercury, and the views the probe got from this latest flyby have been spectacular! You should cruise around the official website for a while and feel the awe of seeing something few people have ever seen. I promise it’ll give you a taste of exploring an alien world, where imagination is as important as collecting data. Plus, those images will just knock your socks off!