NASA Series: Messenger

Space, though vast and unknown, can send us endless messages that last forever. Humanity has been enchanted with the cosmos throughout history. It was only until recently that we could explore our surrounding universe. NASA continued our fascination on August 3, 2004 with the launch of the Messenger satellite mission. Messenger’s main mission was to explore the planet Mercury and study the geology, magnetic fields, and chemical composition. Messenger became the first ever spacecraft to enter Mercury’s orbit on March 18, 2011.

NASA Rendering of Messenger Satellite

Messenger went on to discover past volcanic activity, organic compounds, and water on the planet surface. The satellite orbited Mercury once every year, due to the planet’s relatively slow rotation. Lenox Laser had the honor of laser drilling parts for NASA’s mission providing Messenger with High-Powered Ceramic Apertures used for spatial filtering. These specially made apertures from Lenox laser were on the spacecraft when it orbited Venus on its way to the mission planet Mercury. Lenox Laser’s involvement with Messenger continued past completion of its primary mission in 2012. Lenox Laser provided macor and flight quality alumina apertures for the Mercury Laser Altimeter on board Messenger.

Ultimately, the Messenger satellite was destroyed on April 30, 2015, when it impacted Mercury in a crash landing. Messenger discovered that Mercury’s planet surface is at an astounding 800°F with a surface area of over 28 million miles.  Scientists also discovered that Mercury contains craters full of water ice on the North Pole side of the planet. This is incredible because of the heat produced by its close proximity to the Sun. Mission data found that the planet had an iron rich core, and that its past volcanic activity could date back almost 4 million years. NASA is not quite sure how the planet was formed given Mercury dense atmosphere. The Messenger mission helped expand humanity’s knowledge of the universe, and Lenox Laser is proud to be a part of that ever-growing legacy.

Join us next Thursday to read more about Lenox Laser’s involvement with NASA’s missions as part of our NASA series.

NASA Series: STEREO
NASA Series: Hubble Space Telescope