Friday, March 18, 2011

Right on the money

With a 30-minute blast from its main rocket engine, NASA's Messenger spacecraft slipped into orbit around the planet Mercury Thursday evening, becoming the first craft from Earth ever to circle the closest planet to the sun.

The spacecraft was launched on its $446 million mission in 2004. Since then it has flown by Earth and Venus (twice) on a circuitous 4.9 billion-mile journey. It made three high-speed flybys of Mercury in 2008 and 2009 and sent back a lode of scientific data and more than a few surprises for planetary scientists.

Amazing feat moves into another phase.

We hit the trajectory to within half a sigma, for my engineer friends in the crowd. It was right on the money.

The skill of man never ceases to astound.

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