MESSENGER Departing Earth

Leaving home: Image captured from the MESSENGER spacecraft during its flyby past earth in August 2005. Image credit: Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
Leaving home: Image captured from the MESSENGER spacecraft during its flyby past earth in August 2005. Image credit: Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

MESSENGER has been in orbit around Mercury since March of 2011, but it began its journey seven years earlier, way back in August of 2004. Getting to the innermost planet takes quite a bit of work, involving a series of flybys past Earth, Venus, and eventually Mercury itself before settling into orbit.

The first of these flybys was past Earth in 2005, and MESSENGER snapped images over a 24-hour period as it was departing. The result is a movie that shows what it’s like to depart our home planet:

Is that amazing or what? As MESSENGER departs, Earth completes a full rotation. When the camera started rolling on August 2nd, the spacecraft was 40,761 miles (65,598 kilometers) above South America. By the time it took its last image one day later, MESSENGER was 270,847 miles (435,885 kilometers) away from Earth – farther than the Moon’s orbit!

This is what it looks like to leave our home. We should do this more often.

Hat tip to Mike Brotherton for the video link!

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