Washington: NASA's Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER spacecraft, which was due to end its four-year mission with a suicidal plunge into the innermost planet in March, will attempt a reboost to get bonus time for studying the planet, it has been reported.
Engineers estimate its altitude will be just 15 miles above the surface on Jan 21. But on that day, despite its empty gas tan, MESSENGER , an acronym for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging will attempt a reboost, Discovery News reported.
Engineers instead devised a maneuver using leftover helium from the system that keeps the propulsion system pressurized.
The boost should buy scientists about another month of time to learn about variations in Mercury's internal magnetic field and study water ice inside craters in the planet's northern latitudes.