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Mercury-Jupiter (center) compared with Redstone (left) and Atlas (right). Mercury-Jupiter was a proposal, and not launched
Mercury-Jupiter (center) compared with Redstone (left) and Atlas (right). Mercury-Jupiter was a proposal, and not launched

Mercury-Jupiter was a proposed suborbital launch configuration consisting of a Jupiter missile carrying a Mercury capsule. Two flights were planned in support of Project Mercury. On July 1, 1959, less than a year after the October, 1958 program start date, the flights were canceled due to budget constraints.[1] The MJ-1 flight would have been a heat shield test. The MJ-2 flight was planned as a maximum dynamic pressure qualification test of the production Mercury spacecraft with a chimpanzee on board.[2]

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  • Why Did NASA Crash A Satellite Into Mercury?
  • What has NASA's Juno discovered around Jupiter so far?
  • Mission Juno - Great documentary on Jupiter and NASA's Juno probe


Occasionally, NASA makes the news not because they did something super inspirational or fantastic or crazy cool amazing, but because people just don't get it. This is one of those times. Howdy partners, this is DNews, thanks for coming by! I'm Trace Dominguez. Mercury is the innermost planet in our solar system, it's both hot and cold, and it's zipping around the sun every 88 days -- but to be honest, we don't know as much about it as we'd like. So NASA launched Messenger in 2004 to explore it -- it arrived in 2011, and has been orbiting ever since. It's learned about volatile compounds on the planet, its magnetic field, that there is ice in the shadowed craters, and about the ancient tectonic and volcanic systems that shaped the planet; among other things. But now, this week. TODAY. About an hour ago, in fact; Messenger crashed into Mercury. On purpose. Messenger hit the planet going 12 times the speed of sound with the force of a semi-truck going 300 mph (483kph), and will leave a crater the width of a basketball court. Every month or two, Mercury is hit by a meteor about the same size as Messenger, going 10 times as fast; so it's not going to do real damage. Messenger was out of fuel, and was literally flying on fumes -- compressed helium which wasn't designed to alter its course had been MacGuyvered into the task to extend the science just a BIT longer. But can you really learn something just by crashing into a thing? Apparently, yes! In this case, we won't know for a bitbut the crash might provide insight into what's beneath the surface of the planet, someday. This isn't the first probe crash by any means. Accidents DO happen, like in 1966, when humans made their first physical contact with another planet as Russian probe Venera 3 crashed into Venus. It was supposed to land and measure the atmosphere. But mostly, crashes are purposeful. Like when NASA purposely crashed SkyLab in 1979, or in 2003, when Jupiter's Galileo probe purposely crashed into our largest planet after a 14 year mission. Long before Galileo's crash, it released a smaller probe which flew into the atmosphere to test it for speed, composition, density and temperature. When Galileo hit those clouds the friction burned her up and the gravity and density crushed her -- but they did it on purpose. Galileo had learned there might be underground salt water oceans on Europa! And if they simply allowed the spacecraft to orbit Jupiter, it could crash into those oceans, contaminating them with Earth bacteria. That would be horrible, so instead they intentionally crashed it; and now are designing a potential Europa mission to explore those oceans. In 2005, NASA crashed into comet Tempel 1 with a washing-machine sized probe named Deep Impact. They hit at 37-thousand kilometers per hour watching from an orbiter nearby to capture the science coming out of the probe. The scientists wanted to get "under the skin" of a comet and see what they're made of. The impact was quote "bigger than expected… it was like a mosquito hitting a 747." This whole mission had to be a string of "that's what she saids." They spent months analyzing the data from the crash, and were able to take pictures of the comet as the tiny probe smashed into its surface. Missions like this likely informed the Rosetta/Philae comet mission from last year! And most recently, LADEE, and GRAIL's Ebb and Flow have all crashed into the Moon. While the crashes themselves don't always teach us much, you can't get data from a dead probe, after all. So why do we crash them? We can learn by watching the explosions, studying the craters and tracking the results. Physics has rules, and the more controlled variables we have in a crash the more we can learn. Personally, I think there's some theatrical ovation to crashing a probe. Voyager is doomed to fly forever, as a space-borne time capsule to humanity, but for other, smaller probes… crashing is a way of saying, thank you for the knowledge you've given, now let's blow you up in spectacular fashion! It seems a fitting and very final end for any mission. What do you think? Should we make all our space probes crash? If you could do anything with these multi-million-dollar science projects, what would you do? And if you want to know more about expensive science projects, did you know there have been over 90 space telescopes launched! Why so many? Check out this episode of DNews to find out. While you're at it, subscribe so you get even more videos, and thanks for watching.

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

This page was last edited on 22 January 2018, at 13:49
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