The scoop: NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft swung by Mercury twice in 2008 to get a head-start on solving some of its countless mysteries. Team leader Sean Solomon gives us the skinny on its work.
Dave on Earth (9:59 AM): Good morning Sean! Thanks for logging on.
MESSENGER2Merc (10:00 AM): Hi Dave. I've never used this software before, so bear with me.
Dave on Earth (10:00 AM): No worries, you're doing fine already!
I've been trying to track you down for the good part of a few weeks now.
What have you been up to?
MESSENGER2Merc (10:02 AM): It's been a busy month! We've had two very successful flybys of Mercury this year, so we're happily digesting the first data from Mercury in more than 30 years.
Right after the most recent flyby, most of the science team gathered at the Applied Physics Laboratory to discuss the new data.
Dave on Earth (10:04 AM): And you have another coming up next year, correct?
MESSENGER2Merc (10:05 AM): Yes, there's one more flyby of Mercury on Sept. 29, 2009. Eighteen months later we'll catch up with Mercury for the fourth time, and MESSENGER will go into orbit. As for what else I've been up to: After the second flyby I put together a talk on our findings, followed by a NASA press conference to present more discoveries in late October.
And I just returned from a meeting of the full MESSENGER science team in Boulder last week.
Dave on Earth (10:07 AM): Feel good to be home then?
MESSENGER2Merc (10:08 AM): It does, but I can't savor the moment too long...I'm also involved in the GRAIL mission to the moon, which is holding a preliminary design review this week at NASA JPL.
So I'm off to the airport again.
Dave on Earth (10:08 AM): And I thought I was a busy person...
Of all the missions you've worked on, which would you say is your favorite?