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Messenger comes to an end April 29, 2015

Posted by aquillam in MichiganAstro.
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I am nowhere near as talented as Bill Dunford, who created this beautiful tribute video, but here are my two cents on the end of the messenger mission.

Some 20 years ago, a small group of students from the recently formed Student Astronomical Society hopped on a bus and went up to the University of Michigan north campus to see a piece of a spacecraft. It was a mass spectrometer built by some of our fellow students (I think few faculty and staff members were involved too.) We joined probably 200 other people to see the instrument off. It was a little surreal, this tiny thing sitting under a clear cover with steam from the liquid nitrogen pouring out all over the stage. We were all very excited. A little piece of Michigan was going off to the planet Mercury.

At that time, Mercury was a very mysterious world. We didn’t even know what most of it surfaced looked like. It had an oddly strong magnetic field, and jumbled terrain unlike anything else we’d seen in the solar system.  If you had told me then that there were volcanoes on this tiny planet, I wouldn’t have believed you.

We’ve learned a lot in the past 20 years. Personally, I’ve certainly learned that 20 years is a very short time indeed, but it appears to go by so slowly that sometimes you need an event like this to put into perspective.

And now, at around 3:26 pm ET on April 30, a little piece of Michigan will be part of the planet Mercury.

 

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