Space Probes to Mercury


Mariner 10 was the first space probe to visit Mercury. It was also the first probe to visit two planets - Venus and Mercury. Mariner 10 used the gravitational pull of Venus to swing it into a different orbit so it could continue on to Mercury. Between 1974 and 1975, Mariner's flight path took it past Mercury three times. The probe's primary mission was to obtain close-up views of Mercury. Until Mariner 10, astronomers were not sure what Mercury really looked like because it is so close to the Sun and is usually lost in solar glare. The probe passed within 203 kilometers of Mercury and took some 2,800 photographs. Most of Mercury's surface was revealed in full detail by Mariner's visit.

On August 3, 2004, NASA launched the MESSENGER mission to Mercury. It will flyby Earth, Venus, and Mercury itself several times before settliing into orbit around our innermost planet in March 2011. The MESSENGER probe will provide the first new up-close data about Mercury in 30 years!

Mariner 10
Mariner 10


The StarChild site is a service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA/GSFC.

StarChild Authors: The StarChild Team
StarChild Graphics & Music: Acknowledgments
StarChild Project Leader: Dr. Laura A. Whitlock
Responsible NASA Official: Phil Newman

DVD Table of Contents
Educator's Index