Venus tosses MESSENGER on its way

Contributed by
Jun 5, 2007
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Nuts, so many things to keep track of (and I'm busy writing a book, dagnappit!), but a job is a job...

Just as it did last October, the MESSENGER spacecraft on its way to the planet Mercury is about to get a gravitational assist from Venus today.

Unlike probes to outer planets, where we need to give them energy (and thus speed) to get them to their targets in a timely fashion, MESSENGER needs to lose energy to drop in closer to the Sun. It's dipping down low toward Venus, and generously giving the planet some of its momentum. This maneuver lowered the path of the probe and will send it on toward Mercury (where it'll drop into orbit on March 18, 2011 if all goes well). The closest approach will happen at 4:08 Pacific time (23:08 UT), and I'll post an update when I learn more.