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NASA Probe Set to Plunge Into Mercury’s Surface

© NASAMercury Probe
Mercury Probe - Sputnik International
After four years of circling the planet closest to the sun, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Mercury Messenger probe is running out of fuel and losing altitude.

It’s expected to crash into the planet sometime around April 30.

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“The spacecraft will pass behind the planet, out of view from the Earth, and will just not emerge again,” Daniel O’Shaughnessy, systems engineer with Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory — which operates the spacecraft – told Reuters.

The probe has discovered ice and other materials on Mercury and it’s the first close-up study of Mercury since NASA’s Mariner spacecraft made several flybys of the planet in the mid-1970s.

The probe’s crash landing at nearly 9,000 miles an hour is expected to leave a crater of about 52 feet in diameter which scientists say will help them study the planet’s fast-changing weather, a phenomenon the Mercury found. Scientists will also study further how such a small planet has a strong magnetic field, which is something Messenger also discovered. 

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