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Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Oct 25, 2006 0:41:12 GMT -6
Messenger Completes Venus Flyby
Laurel MD (SPX) Oct 25, 2006 NASA's Mercury-bound Messenger spacecraft came within 2,990 kilometers (1,860 miles) of the surface of Venus early this morning during its second planetary encounter. The spacecraft used the tug of the planet's gravity to change its trajectory significantly, shrinking the radius of its orbit around the Sun and bringing it closer to Mercury.
Messenger swung by Venus at 8:34 UTC (4:34 a.m. EDT), according to mission operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. About 18 minutes after the approach, an anticipated solar eclipse cut off communication between Earth and the spacecraft. Contact was reestablished at 14:15 UTC (10:15 a.m. EDT) through NASA's Deep Space Network, and the team is collecting data to assess Messenger's performance during the flyby.
Shortly before the Venus flyby the spacecraft entered superior conjunction, placing it on the exact opposite side of the sun as Earth, making communication between Messenger and Mission Operations difficult, if not impossible. "So we are not making any scientific observations at the time of this flyby," says Sean C. Solomon, the mission's principal investigator, from the Carnegie Institution of Washington. "We shall conduct a full suite of observations surrounding the second flyby in June 2007."