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Venus and Venus Express to greet a visitor - MESSENGER Venus Fly-by [ June 2007 ]
On 5 June 2007,NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft will fly-past Venus for the second time! MESSENGER
will then travel to the inner solar system to fly past Mercury then go into orbit around
the tiny planet in 2008. MESSENGER first flew past Venus in October 2006, however because
the planet was not well situated in the sky (directly in front of the Sun as seen from
Earth), no data was collected by the spacecraft, as no communication was possible from
Earth. In June 2007, an extensive set of observations of Venus were conducted from both
MESSENGER will come within ~350km of Venus, approaching at about 13.4 km/sec with respect to the planet. It will be the first time MESSENGER conducts extensive observations from its suite of seven instruments since its launch and for the first time, a LIDAR will be activitated at Venus. Venus Express will also carry out simultaneous observations from two different vantage points. The Mercury Laser Altimeter on MESSENGER will fire coherent light pulses at the planet while both spacecraft (MESSENGER and Venus Express) will attempt to detect the reflected light from the clouds!
In April 2007, extensive observations from VIRTIS and VMC were carried out. Using one of NASA's 70-meter Deep Space Network Dishes, about 70 Gb of data was transmitted to Earth by Venus Express. These "movie observations" reveal for the first time, the intricate and dynamic structure within the central region of the southern hemisphere's polar vortex.
MESSENGER is NASA's 6th Discovery mission, led by Dr. Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution. For more information about MESSENGER, please visit the MESSENGER home page at Johns Hopkins University.