NASA Teleconference to Preview Messenger's Flyby of Mercury


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NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EST on Thursday, Jan. 10, to preview the historic Jan. 14 spacecraft flight past Mercury that will explore some of the last major never-seen-before terrain in the inner solar system.

NASA's MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) is the first mission sent to orbit the planet closest to the sun. It will use Mercury's gravity for a critical assist needed to keep the spacecraft on track for its orbit insertion around the planet three years from now. During this month's Mercury pass the probe's cameras and other sophisticated, high-technology instruments will take unprecedented images and make the first up-close measurements of the planet since Mariner 10's third and final flyby on March 16, 1975. The flyby also will gather essential data for planning the overall mission. MESSENGER was launched on Aug. 3, 2004. After flybys of Earth, Venus, and Mercury, it will start a year-long orbital study of Mercury in March 2011.

Briefing participants:

-- Marilyn Lindstrom, MESSENGER program scientist, NASA Headquarters, Washington

-- Sean Solomon, MESSENGER principal investigator, Carnegie Institution of Washington

-- Eric Finnegan, MESSENGER mission systems engineer, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.

-- Faith Vilas, MESSENGER participating scientist and director, MMT Observatory at Mt. Hopkins, Ariz.

To participate in the teleconference, reporters should call 1-888-398-6118 and use the pass code "Mercury." International journalists should call 1-210-234-0013. Audio of the teleconference also will be streamed live at: http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio

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