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Missions to the innermost planet, Mercury, in order :
plus nation, launch date, result (bold = success, red = failure, gray = inactive or destroyed)
vehicle type in parentheses if launch failure
Overall Mercurian mission success: 1/1 = 100%

  1. Mariner 10 - USA 03 November 1973
    Flyby of Venus at ? km on 05Feb1974, three flybys of Mercury (29Mar1974 @ 705 km, 21Sep1974 @ ?km, and 16Mar1975), imaged 45% of planet, returned 2700 pix, in solar orbit, died at ? km on when?
    For more info on Mariner 10, visit JPL's Mariner 10 site.

Note: Multiple visits to the same body by the same spacecraft (e.g. GEM) do not count as multiple missions (even if they do require multiple visits to Capitol Hill for funding). Multiple visits to different primaries do. A mere gravity assist maneuver without science return doesn't really count as a mission, either - a "flyby" requires at least one instrument to be pointed in the general direction of the celestial body. This was not an accounting issue until a few Big Science missions (e.g. Galileo, Project Vega) flew some very complex trajectories with multiple gravity assists.

Credit goes out to TRW Space Log 1957-1996, The Planetary Report published by The Planetary Society, Proton Mission Planner's Manual, and Jonathan's Space Report. A tip o' the #10 green solar filter (welder's grade) plus lead codpiece to David Portree DSFPortree@aol.com for his sharp eyes.

Future Missions to Mercury

  • MESSENGER - USA March 2004
    MErcury Surface, Space Environment, GEochemistry, and Ranging mission will reach innermost planet in April 2009 for orbital mapping and to measure atmosphere & magnetosphere. Two flybys of Venus, two flybys of Mercury in 2007 & 2008, then in orbit for one year. US$286M. Instruments (7): camera, laser altimeter, magnetometer, multiple spectrometers.

  • Bepi Colombo - ESA/Japan 2009
    Imaging orbiter, magnetometric orbiter, & dual penetrators. Will image entire planet and search for possible ice in shaded polar craters.

  • planned but never designed or built Mercury probe - USSR circa 1975?
    According to Anatoliy Zak's RussianSpaceWeb, the Soviet research institute TsNIIMash developed plan in the late 60s/early 70s for a mission to Mercury, but this was never realized beyond promotional models.

Notes about the maps from NASA's Mariner 10

What's Coming to this Page:

Grayscale image of the planet Mercury and a picture of Mariner 10 Venus/Mercury flyby probe coming soon, as well as a discussion of Boston University's ground based imaging campaign of the heretofore unseen side of Mercury. Your comments are welcome: robot@ultimax.com
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These pages last updated April 1, 2003