An unmanned NASA spacecraft, Messenger, has crashed on the surface of the planet Mercury, after it ran out of fuel following a successful 11-year mission, the US space agency said Thursday.
The Messenger was the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury, and issued a final farewell on Twitter shortly before its demise at 3:26 pm (1926 GMT).
Well I guess it is time to say goodbye to all my friends, family, support team. I will be making my final impact very soon.
— MESSENGER (@MESSENGER2011) April 30, 2015
“A NASA planetary exploration mission came to a planned, but nonetheless dramatic, end Thursday when it slammed into Mercury’s surface at about 8,750 miles per hour (3.91 kilometers per second) and created a new crater on the planet’s surface,” the agency said in a statement.
The spacecraft itself was just about three meters long.
The crater it would cause was expected to be 16 meters (52 feet) in diameter, NASA said.
The mission, which launched in 2004, had achieved “unprecedented success,” with its top discovery being that Mercury had lots of frozen water and other volatile materials in its permanently shadowed polar craters on the planet closest to the Sun, the US space agency said.