Kasra Esfahanian / Staff reporter
On August 3, 2004, the MESSENGER spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a Delta II rocket, beginning a 4.9-billion-mile journey that took more than six and a half years. One of the recent information that has been found out by the MESSENGER was that the potential ice deposits are found in craters near the poles of both worlds. “We found shallow craters tend to be located in areas where surface ice was previously detected near the south pole of the Moon and inferred this shallowing is most likely due to the presence of buried thick ice deposits,” said lead author Lior Rubanenko of the University of California.
Like Earth, Mercury’s outer core is composed of liquid metal, but there have only been hints that Mercury’s innermost core is solid. Now, in a new study, scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland have found evidence that Mercury’s inner core is indeed solid and that it is nearly the same size as Earth’s inner core. Some scientists compare Mercury to a cannonball because it has a metal-core that fills nearly 85 percent of the volume of the planet. This large core is huge compared to the other rocky planets in our solar system and has long been one of the most intriguing mysteries about Mercury. After more than 10 years in operation, the Mercury Surface, Space environment, geochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft impacted the surface of Mercury on April 30, 2015, at a speed of more than 3.91 kilometres per second (8,750 miles per hour), marking the end of operations for the hugely successful Mercury orbiter.
At the MESSENGER Nears End of Operations media and public event, scientists and engineers discussed the mission’s accomplishments, providing the top 10 scientific discoveries, as well as the technological innovations that grew out of the mission. Earth’s Moon and Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, may contain significantly more water ice than previously thought, according to a new analysis of data from NASA’s LRO and MESSENGER spacecraft.
In the past, telescopic observations and orbiting spacecraft have found glacier-like ice deposits on Mercury, but not on the Moon. The new work raises the possibility that thick ice-rich deposits also exist on the Moon. The research may not only help resolve the question regarding the Moon’s apparent low ice abundance relative to Mercury, but it could also have practical applications: “If confirmed, this potential reservoir of frozen water on the Moon may be sufficiently massive to sustain long-term lunar exploration,” said Noah Petro, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.