Mariner 10′s first image of Mercury acquired on March 24, 1974. During its flight, Mariner 10′s trajectory brought it behind the lighted hemisphere of Mercury, where this image was taken, in order to acquire important measurements with other instruments.
This picture was acquired from a distance of 3,340,000 miles (5,380,000 km) from the surface of Mercury. The diameter of Mercury (3,031 miles; 4,878 km) is about 1/3 that of Earth.
Images of Mercury were acquired in two steps, an inbound leg (images acquired before passing into Mercury’s shadow) and an outbound leg (after exiting from Mercury’s shadow). More than 2300 useful images of Mercury were taken, both moderate resolution (3-20 km/pixel) color and high resolution (better than 1 km/pixel) black and white coverage.
Image and text courtesy of NASA and USGS.