Over the upcoming few months, personnel at the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), a part of The Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, will be testing the spacecraft to make sure it is in working order so it can complete its one-year mission in orbit about the planet.
A team at APL designed and built the spacecraft for NASA. And, today personnel at APL manage and operate the spacecraft for NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD), located in Washington, D.C.
MESSENGER's Mission Profile is provided by NASA's Solar System Exploration website.
Its primary goal is to: ''¦ map the surface composition, study the magnetic field and interior structure of our solar system's smallest and innermost planet -- Mercury. It carries eight instruments to study Mercury's polar deposits, core and magnetic dynamo, crust and mantle, magnetosphere, crustal composition, geologic evolution and exosphere.'
So far, MESSENGER has revealed that ''¦ Mercury as a unique, geologically diverse world with a magnetosphere far different than the one first discovered by Mariner 10 in 1975.' [NASA]
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So far, MESSENGER has flew by Mercury on three separate occasions, mapping most of the planet that Mariner 10 didn't image. With MESSENGER in orbit, it will now map the remaining areas so far unmapped, and provide much more detailed images of all of the planet.
Right now, we know that Mercury is heavily cratered with various regions of smooth plains. Its features remind us of the Moon. However, it has a large iron core (which generates a magnetic field), unlike the Moon.
We'll learn a lot more over the next year, thanks to NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft.