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The Mercury Dual Imaging System on the MESSENGER Spacecraft


The Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) on the MESSENGER spacecraft will provide critical measurements tracing Mercury’s origin and evolution. MDIS consists of a monochrome narrow-angle camera (NAC) and a multispectral wide-angle camera (WAC). The NAC is a 1.5° field-of-view (FOV) off-axis reflector, coaligned with the WAC, a four-element refractor with a 10.5° FOV and 12-color filter wheel. The focal plane electronics of each camera are identical and use a 1,024×1,024 Atmel (Thomson) TH7888A charge-coupled device detector. Only one camera operates at a time, allowing them to share a common set of control electronics. The NAC and the WAC are mounted on a pivoting platform that provides a 90° field-of-regard, extending 40° sunward and 50° anti-sunward from the spacecraft +Z-axis—the boresight direction of most of MESSENGER’s instruments. Onboard data compression provides capabilities for pixel binning, remapping of 12-bit data into 8 bits, and lossless or lossy compression. MDIS will acquire four main data sets at Mercury during three flybys and the two-Mercury-solar-day nominal mission: a monochrome global image mosaic at near-zero emission angles and moderate incidence angles, a stereo-complement map at off-nadir geometry and near-identical lighting, multicolor images at low incidence angles, and targeted high-resolution images of key surface features. These data will be used to construct a global image base map, a digital terrain model, global maps of color properties, and mosaics of high-resolution image strips. Analysis of these data will provide information on Mercury’s impact history, tectonic processes, the composition and emplacement history of volcanic materials, and the thickness distribution and compositional variations of crustal materials. This paper summarizes MDIS’s science objectives and technical design, including the common payload design of the MDIS data processing units, as well as detailed results from ground and early flight calibrations and plans for Mercury image products to be generated from MDIS data.

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Correspondence to S. Edward Hawkins III.

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Hawkins, S.E., Boldt, J.D., Darlington, E.H. et al. The Mercury Dual Imaging System on the MESSENGER Spacecraft. Space Sci Rev 131, 247–338 (2007).

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  • Mercury
  • Imaging
  • Camera
  • Imager
  • CCD
  • Heat pipe
  • Wax pack
  • Photometry
  • Stereo