NASAâ€™s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistryÂ and Ranging spacecraft crashed into the planet Mercuryâ€™s surface on April 30 as planned, marking the completionÂ of its four-year mission orbiting the planet.
NASA said Friday the impact, estimated to have created a crater up to 50 feet wide on the planetâ€™s surface, was confirmed by mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory after the agencyâ€™s Deep Space Network station in Goldstone, California, detected a loss in signal.
â€œWe monitored Messengerrâ€™s beacon signal for about 20 additional minutes,â€ said Andy Calloway, mission operations manager at APL.
â€œIt was strange to think during that time MessengerÂ had already impacted, but we could not confirm it immediately due to the vast distance across space between Mercury and Earth.â€
Just before the spacecraft ran out of fuel, the APL team carried out orbit correction maneuvers that enabled Messengerâ€™s equipment to collect data about Mercuryâ€™s polar craters and magnetic anomalies on the planetâ€™s crust.
The APL-built Messenger launched in 2004 and traveled for more than six years before entering Mercury’s orbit in 2011.
Discoveries of the spacecraftâ€™s mission include information on the planetâ€™s geological history, polar deposits, internal magnetic field and surface composition.
John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASAâ€™s Science Mission Directorate, said scientists at the agency will continue to evaluate the data available in the archives and figure out the planetâ€™s mysteries.