Exploring the Solar System

Exploring Mercury and Venus

What is the most recent spacecraft to explore Mercury?

For three decades after the successful Mariner 10 mission, no spacecraft were sent to Mercury. Then on August 3, 2004, NASA launched the MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a Delta II rocket. After three years of travel that included a flyby of Earth and two flybys of Venus, MESSENGER first approached and flew by Mercury on January 14, 2008. After three more years and two more flybys of Mercury, MESSENGER finally settled into orbit around Mercury in March 2011 and began its detailed examination of the planet.


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