LASP developed and built the Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS) instrument onboard MESSENGER. MASCS was designed to detect minerals on Mercury’s surface, and determine the abundance and components of its thin atmosphere. Data from MASCS is helping scientists answer the questions: What is Mercury’s surface made out of? How is Mercury’s atmosphere generated? Does Mercury have ice at its poles?
Combining an ultraviolet spectrometer and infrared spectrograph, MASCS measured the abundance of atmospheric gases around Mercury and detects minerals in its surface materials.