A NASA spacecraft that completed its third and final flyby of the planet Mercury yesterday, snapping new pictures of the innermost planet, had a small data hiccup that has delayed release of the images, mission engineers said today.
The MESSENGER probe skimmed just 142 miles (228 km) above Mercury at its closest approach as it whipped around the planet during the flyby, the last of three designed to guide the spacecraft into orbit around the planet in 2011.
The spacecraft did snap several new images of the rocky planet on the inbound leg of its close approach.
“We do have some new science from the flyby,” said MESSENGER project scientist Ralph McNutt of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
MESSENGER also took snapshots during its close approach, but “we had a little bit of a hiccup in the data” that has delayed the release of those images, said Eric Finnegan, systems engineer for the mission at Johns Hopkins APL. “It’s coming,” he added.
The anomaly appears to have happened right around the spacecraft’s close approach, so there may not be images from the outbound leg of the journey, McNutt said.
“We missed a little icing on the cake,” McNutt told SPACE.com.
Despite the hiccup, the spacecraft is in good health, Finnegan told SPACE.com.
“What is important is that the spacecraft and the instruments are healthy,” McNutt said.
The team is sifting through all the data and new images to see just how much they got before the glitch, McNutt added.
via NASA Probe Snaps Photos of Mercury But Suffers Minor Glitch – Yahoo! News.
What shape was the hiccup and how fast was it moving? 😉