NASA’s MESSENGER mission came to an end yesterday after the space probe slammed into Mercury’s surface at about 8,750 mph. The photo above is the last photo that was sent back to scientists on Earth before impact.
Here’s an interesting fact: thousands of photos were still on the MESSENGER when it was destroyed — images that we will never get a chance to lay eyes on.
MESSENGER was originally scheduled to orbit Mercury for one year, but it ended up enduring for over four years and 4,105 orbits.
During that time, it managed to shoot and send back roughly 278,000 photos, giving scientists an unprecedented look at the surface of the planet closest to the Sun.
In the days leading up to the MESSENGER’s scheduled crash ending, NASA revealed that more than a thousand untransmitted photos would still be on the spacecraft’s recorder at the time of impact, never to be seen.
It wasn’t by accident though. “This is by design,” NASA says. “It is better to collect more data than can be transmitted than end the mission having been able to possibly have done more!”
You can find an online gallery of the MESSENGER’s Mercury photos on the NASA website here.
Image credits: Photograph by NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington