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NASA Spacecraft Crashes on Mercury After 11-Year Mission

After almost 11 years in space and four years of orbiting Mercury, NASA’s Messenger spacecraft (which stands for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging) has run out of fuel and crashed onto the surface of the planet. Messenger is estimated to have traveled somewhere around 5 billion miles during its time in space—which makes the numbers on your run-down car’s odometer seem suddenly much less impressive. After the planet’s gravity pulled the vehicle out of orbit, it slammed into Mercury’s surface at 8,750 mph, creating a small crater. Messenger’s mission to Mercury began in 2004, and the spacecraft settled into orbit in 2011. It has since completed more than 4,000 orbits of the planet and sent back volumes of data about Mercury back to scientists on Earth. Little was known about the planet before the mission. NASA scientists and experts hosted a live-stream of the crash to celebrate the end of Messenger’s mission and explain some of the spacecraft’s discoveries—you can re-watch it here

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