The NASA team working on the Mercury orbiter, commonly called MESSENGER, has commenced a competition to name the craters on Mercury as the spacecraft approaches the end of its operational life.
The US space agency’s spacecraft MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) entered orbit around the planet about four year ago. The spacecraft has sent more than 260,000 incredible images of the atmosphere and the surface, which has tremendously helped the scientists to learn more and more peculiar facts about the planet and its atmosphere.
And now, the NASA spacecraft is approaching the end of its operational life. If reports are to be believed, the fuel reserves of the spacecraft have nearly exhausted and the spacecraft will now be able to maintain its orbit around Mercury until January-end next year.
Following the complete exhaustion of the fuel, the altitude of spacecraft will slowly decline until it collides with the planet’s surface. The spacecraft is expected to fall on the planet in March next year.
The MESSENGER is the first spacecraft to completely orbit Mercury. It completed the journey in March 2011. Even though it wasn’t the first spacecraft to visit Mercury, but it is the first one to compete the journey since the space probe ‘Mariner 10’ flew by Mercury in the 1970s. The Mariner only managed to capture 45 percent of images of Mercury’s surface. But MESSENGER has caught 260,000 incredible images of Mercury.
Meanwhile, NASA has invited interested people for a competition to name the craters on Mercury. But they will not be allowed to pick their own name for the heavenly bodies. Rather they have to choose the name of a prominent personality who is known for his/her work in arts or humanities and also is not alive for at least three years. The personality chosen by the contestants must have been at least 50-year-old.
The competition started on December 15 and will run till January 15.