Science Seminars

10/20/2016 – Rebecca Thomas; Did MESSENGER Steal BepiColombo’s Thunder? Recent Advances in Our Understanding of Mercury’s Geology

Speaker: Rebecca Thomas (LASP)
Date: Tuesday, Oct 20, 2020
Time: 4:00 PM
Location: SPSC W120

Seminar Abstract:

After Mariner 10 obtained brief and tantalizing glimpses of the planet Mercury in its 1974-75 flybys, the will to know more was strong, but the costs of sending a spacecraft into orbit around the innermost planet discouraged any follow-up mission. However, through ingenious trajectory design, two affordable missions were eventually devised, with NASA selecting MESSENGER under its Discovery program in 1999, and ESA (collaborating with JAXA) selecting BepiColombo for its Horizons 2000 program a year later. Though this initially suggested they would be present in Hermean space during the same period, it was not to be. MESSENGER completed its mission in 2015, while BepiColombo remains on the ground, currently scheduled to reach Mercury in 2024. MESSENGER obtained a huge array of important findings about the innermost planet, and about its geology in particular. This seminar will summarize the key geological discoveries that have been made, from its unusual internal layering to its long-lived volcanic and tectonic activity. It will then look at where MESSENGER has left us guessing, and consider how (and if) BepiColombo can provide the answers.