Mercury’s Surface as Seen by MESSENGER
As the first flyby on 14 January 2008 drew near, it was with mounting anticipation that I, and doubtless many others, repeatedly refreshed my browser for updates to the MESSENGER website. The first image to appear, captioned ‘MESSENGER Readies for Its Encounter with Mercury’ was acquired by the NAC on 9 January and showed merely a distant crescent. Subsequent daily images showed a slightly bigger view of the same thing, but little detail. The most interesting thing about them was how successive captions used different words to say the same thing: ‘MESSENGER Closes in on Mercury’, ‘MESSENGER Nears Mercury’ and ‘MESSENGER Has Mercury in Its Sights’. However the 5th image, acquired 36 h before closest approach ‘Countdown to MESSENGER’s Closest Approach to Mercury’ revealed recognisable features at last (Fig. 4.1).