NASA said Thursday the Messenger spacecraft is now anticipated to crash-land on Mercury by the end of the month as it runs out of helium gas propellant following a series of orbit correction maneuvers.
“While spacecraft operations will end, we are celebrating Messenger as more than a successful mission,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
“It’s the beginning of a longer journey to analyze the data that reveals all the scientific mysteries of Mercury.”
Messenger, which was built by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, launched in 2004 and traveled for more than six years before entering Mercury’s orbit in 2011.
According to NASA, the spacecraft’s science discoveries include information on ice deposits observed in Mercury’s polar craters, which could point to the origin of planetary life.
It also facilitated the development of breakthrough technologies such as the heat-resistant ceramic cloth sunshade used to protect instruments from direct solar radiation, the agency added.