CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — After years of orbiting Mercury, NASA's Messenger spacecraft will crash into the planet at the end of this month.
NASA announced Messenger's impending demise Thursday. But instead of mourning, scientists and engineers celebrated the success of this first spacecraft to orbit the planet closest to our sun.
Messenger is expected to slam into Mercury on April 30, succumbing to gravity after running out of fuel. It will be traveling more than 8,700 mph at the time of impact, and create a crater about 52 feet across. The impact will occur on the side of Mercury facing away from Earth, out of view of telescopes. Scientists expect to collect data until almost the bitter end.
Messenger was launched in 2004 and entered into Mercury's orbit in 2011.