Even with the application of modern processing techniques, there
is only so much information that can be obtained from the Mariner
10 images and data. MESSENGER (Mercury
Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging) launched in August, 2004, promises to provide new and exciting data. After two encounters with Venus, MESSENGER
made the first of two encounters with Mercury in 2008, revealing views of the unseen hemisphere
of Mercury. Then in 2011, MESSENGER will enter Mercury orbit and begin
a mapping phase that will extend over four Mercury years. MESSENGER
will obtain global image cover of Mercury at resolutions better than
highest resolution images returned by Mariner 10. MESSENGER will determine
the elemental and mineral makeup of the crustal material exposed at
the surface. Global topography will be obtained by a laser altimeter
and from global stereo coverage. Tom Watters at the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies is a member of MESSENGER’s Science Team and is involved in the mission's outreach efforts.
Learn more at the MESSENGER Web site.