A media opportunity for MESSENGER, a NASA space probe to conduct the first scientific investigation of Mercury as it orbits the planet, is set for Wednesday, July 14, 10:15 a.m. at the Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville.
MESSENGER's cameras and sensors will provide the first images of the entire planet and collect important information on the composition and structure of Mercury's crust, its geologic history, the nature of its thin atmosphere and active magnetosphere, and the makeup of its core and mysterious polar materials.
The surface of Mercury reaches a high temperature near 840 degrees Fahrenheit and the solar intensity can be 11 times higher than on Earth. Yet, the seven instruments aboard the spacecraft will operate at near room temperature from behind MESSENGER's heat-resistant, ceramic-cloth sunshade while the spacecraft dips into its orbit, as low as 124 miles above the planet. MESSENGER was built and will be operated during the NASA mission by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.
For the media event, procedures for optically sensitive spacecraft must be followed by individuals entering the cleanroom where the spacecraft is being processed. Cleanroom attire will be furnished. Photographers will be requested to clean cameras, tripods and photo accessories using alcohol wipes which will be provided.
Long pants and closed-toe shoes must be worn -- no shorts or skirts. Non-essential equipment such as camera bags or other carrying cases must be left outside the cleanroom. No pencils or felt-tipped pens can be permitted inside the cleanroom, only ball-point pens may be used. Due to the sensitivity of the spacecraft's solar arrays, flash photography and flood lights will not be allowed. There is adequate metal halide lighting in the facility for photography (white with slight green cast; suggested exposure for ISO-ASA 400 is 1/30 sec. at f/5.6 ).
On Wednesday, media should proceed directly to Astrotech located in the Spaceport Florida Industrial Park, 1515 Chaffee Drive, Titusville.
Spokespersons available will be:
Dr. Robert Gold, MESSENGER Payload Manager, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Ted Hartka, MESSENGER Lead Mechanical Engineer, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Launch of NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft is scheduled for Aug. 2, 2:16 a.m. aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket from Pad 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.