NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
MESSENGER mission launch. Boeing Delta II rocket launching at night on 3 August 2004, carrying the MESSENGER probe into space. MESSENGER (Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging) is on a 7-year journey to Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun. It is scheduled to enter orbit on 18 March 2011. The journey will involve several orbits around the Sun, and several flybys of Earth, Venus and Mercury. These flybys will slow the spacecraft down to enable it to enter orbit safely. The flybys dates are: Earth (August 2005), Venus (October 2006 and June 2007), Mercury (January 2008, October 2008, and September 2009). Photographed at Launch Pad 17-B, Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA.
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