Scientists following the progress of the United States' Marine 10 spacecraft have reported from Pasadena, California, that a "highly successful and surprising" exploration of the planet Mercury has been completed.
GV Mariner Ten
CU STILL of Mercury
ANIMATED Map of path of Mariner's orbit
CU STILL of Mercury's polar region
LV ANIMATED Diagram showing solar wind blowing around Mercury and Mariner's flight-path
CU Series of Mercury's surface
MV Mariner approaching Mercury
Initials BB/0010 MF/DE/BB/0020
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Background: Scientists following the progress of the United States' Marine 10 spacecraft have reported from Pasadena, California, that a "highly successful and surprising" exploration of the planet Mercury has been completed.
The 1,108-pound (504 kilogramme) craft completed its mission on Sunday (16 March) with a third and final fly-by of the solar system's smallest planet, coming closer to it than any man-made object has come to any extra-terrestrial body, except the moon.
The probe was launched in November 1973 and flew past Mercury in march and September last year. On sunday it came within 130 miles (208 kilometres) of the planet's surface, taking hundreds of photographs and delicate measurements of its magnetic field.
Before the first Mariner encounter a year ago revealed its existence, most scientists agreed that the planet had no magnetic field -- because they thought its rotation was too slow to generate such a force, as earth and other planets do.
The spacecraft will continue to take photographs of the crater-marked surface of Mercury for several days, but will have to be shut down in about a week because all the fuel for its guidance system will have been consumed.