NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, which had been orbiting Mercury since 2011, ended its mission Thursday by running out of fuel and crashing into the planet.
Slooh astronomer Bob Berman said in a news release about the crash, “Simply watching Mercury is always special and exciting, since it’s so close to the sun. Even the great Copernicus said he’d never seen it. But watching it close-up while the MESSENGER spacecraft meets its doom will be a poignant experience that I’m glad we’re sharing with the public.”
According to Slooh, MESSENGER orbited Mercury more than 4,000 times since its launch and mapped the inner planet, discovered water in the exosphere and found evidence of past volcanic activity, among other discoveries. In 2014, MESSENGER also uncovered signs of an annual meteor shower on Mercury.