NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, left, shakes hands with Eric Finnegan, MESSENGER Mission Systems Engineer, right, as John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory Director Dr. Ralph Semmel, second from right, and Ed Weiler, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA look on. The congratulations came after the spacecraft successfully inserted itself in Mercury's orbit, Thursday, March 17, 2011.
MESSENGER, the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury, is carrying seven science instruments and is fortified against the blistering environs near the sun. The orbit insertion will place the spacecraft into a 12-hour orbit about Mercury with a 200 124 mile minimum altitude.
MESSENGER will be 28.67 million miles from the sun and 96.35 million miles from Earth.