Time to Eat the Dogs

A Podcast About Science, History, and Exploration

Mission to Mercury

Regard fleet-footed Mercury, Roman god of travel and trade, the one-man postal service of Mt Olympus. It’s ironic that he has come to represent the solar system’s densest planet, an object consisting of 70% nickel and iron. Still Mercury is quick, speeding around the sun at a rate of 47 km/second, faster than any other planet.

This week Mercury Messenger will pay a visit to this world of metal. Messenger lifted off on 3 August 2004 in hopes of, among other things, figuring out why Mercury is as dense as it is. It will also measure the planet’s geology, magnetic field, atmosphere, and core composition. After a brief fly-by this week, Messenger will prepare for its final insertion into Mercury’s orbit in 2011.

Messenger’s price tag comes in at $446 million, a steep price when compared to other terrestrial transport vehicles of the same name. One Mercury Messenger would buy 15,379 Mercury Sables, fully loaded with satellite radio and heated front seats. But Messenger is actually rather cheap when placed up against the leviathan craft of the Constellation Program developed for travel to the Moon and Mars. At slightly under half a billion dollars, Messenger works out to $1.50 for each U.S. resident, about the same cost per person (accounting for inflation) as Mariner 10 in the 1974. Indeed, this seems a reasonable price for a planet that has only received one visit in 35 years.

2008 Mercury Sable

2008 Mercury Sable

Happy travels Messenger.

See more here at the NASA Messenger Website

1 Comment»

  Patrick Robinson wrote @

That’s amazing that someone has actually visited Mercury and intends to do so again. It’s funny also how Mercury got its’ name. Fast Roman god traveling around the world; fast planet traveling quickly around the sun.

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