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Fri, Jul 20, 2007

Spacecraft Tandem Provide New Views of Venus

Messenger Came Within 210 Miles Of Planet

The National Aeronautic and Space Administration's Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging spacecraft, known as Messenger, and the European Space Agency's Venus Express recently provided the most detailed multi-point images of the Venusian atmosphere ever seen.

The images result from a June 5 flyby of Venus by Messenger during its long journey to Mercury. Venus Express already was in orbit at the planet. The two spacecraft carry sets of instruments employing different observation techniques that complement each other, according to NASA.

Messenger made its closest approach to Venus at a distance of approximately 210 miles on the night side of the planet. At the same time, Venus Express was behind the horizon, almost above the planet's South Pole, at approximately 21,750 miles.

Scientists from both missions are continuing analysis of the images and accompanying data. Data included several instruments studying Venus' cloud deck and surface, plasma environment, magnetic fields, and atmosphere. More results from this joint observation campaign are expected by the end of the year.

Messenger launched on August 3, 2004, and swung by Venus first on October 24, 2006, and for the second time in June. Messenger will enter Mercury's orbit in March 2011. Venus Express, the European Space Agency's first mission to Venus, launched on November 9, 2005, and reached the planet on April 11, 2006.

FMI: www.nasa.gov/messenger

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