CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA’s Messenger — the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury — is no more.
Messenger ended its four-year tour at the solar system’s innermost planet with a crash landing Thursday. It plunged from orbit at a speed of more than 8,750 mph and carved out a crater an estimated 52 feet across.
The spacecraft completed 4,104 orbits of hot, little Mercury and collected more than 277,000 images.
Flight controllers confirmed Messenger’s demise when it failed to emerge from behind the far side of planet, about 14 minutes after the fact.
The only other spacecraft to visit Mercury was NASA’s Mariner 10 back in the 1970s, but that was a fly-by mission.
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