For the Ninth Orbited Object: Add Mercury

The Messenger team is thrilled: after five years, their probe has achieved Mercury orbit. The spacecraft now settles in for a year of ceramic-shielded study of the solar system’s innermost planet.

For the record, the years and first human-made orbiters of the various celestial bodies:

  1. Earth, 1957, Sputnik 1
  2. Sun, 1959, Luna 1
  3. Moon, 1966, Luna 10
  4. Mars, 1971, Mariner 9
  5. Venus, 1975, Venera 9
  6. Jupiter, 1995, Galileo
  7. Eros 433 (asteroid), 2000, NEAR-Shoemaker
  8. Saturn, 2004, Cassini
  9. Mercury, 2011, Messenger

This decade we will see the Dawn probe orbit asteroids Vesta and Ceres. Rosetta will orbit a comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014, if all goes according to plan. I don’t think anything else is on the horizon as far as a “first” orbiter goes. It would be nice to see orbiters at Uranus and Neptune.

Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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