Mercury. MESSENGER image of Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun. At upper right is the giant Caloris basin. The MESSENGER (Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging) spacecraft was launched from Earth in August 2004. After a series of flybys of Earth, Venus and Mercury, to slow it down, the spacecraft will enter orbit around Mercury in March 2011. It will then start a year-long mission to map and study the surface. This image was obtained during MESSENGER's first flyby of Mercury in January 2008.
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