The Applied Physics Lab issued a press release this evening stating that the MESSENGER mission's second flyby of Venus was successful. The geometry of the flyby was such that the spacecraft remained in continuous contact with Earth, but there were a few slightly risky minutes because of a 20-minute period during which the spacecraft was in Venus' shadow and consequently was receiving no power to its solar panels. The release states that MESSENGER operated safely on its batteries, and, according to the release, the batteries were fully recharged within just a little over two hours after the end of the eclipse period. The release did not state whether they have any information on the success of their plans to acquire 6 Gigabits of science data during the encounter. That data will not begin arriving at Earth until a communications session scheduled for Thursday, July 7 at 16:00 UT (09:00 PDT).
Flybys of Earth and Venus are great fun, but MESSENGER is, after all, a mission to Mercury, and with the success of this flyby it is now on its way to the first spacecraft encounter with Mercury in 33 years. Hooray! I can't wait for January!
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