Today marked the end of NASA's historic MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging mission when the spacecraft slammed into the planet's surface after running out of fuel. But as it zoomed danger-close to small planet's surface at a mind-boggling 8,700 miles per hour, MESSENGER managed to beam one last look at the Mercurian landscape back to Earth.
PHOTOS: Mysterious Mercury and Planetary Pareidolia
Captured by the mission's Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS), this view spans only about 1 mile wide, with a resolution of 2.1 meters per pixel. In the view appears to be a relatively flat terrain dotted with small craters and smooth lumps.
Shortly after this photo was transmitted to NASA's Deep Space Network (DNS) - a collaboration of global radio antennae keeping tabs on the space agency's various robotic missions around the solar system - signal was lost and the probe is assumed to have completed its kamikaze plunge into a ridge to the northeast of a vast crater called "Shakespeare."
More Discovery News coverage of the end of the MESSENGER mission to Mercury:
Forever Farewell: NASA's Mercury Probe is now an Impact Crater This is Where NASA's MESSENGER Mercury Mission Will Die