MESSENGER: A Mission to Mercury

MESSENGER: A Mission to Mercury
Below you will find Science NetLinks resources related to the planet Mercury and, in particular, the MESSENGER mission to the planet that concluded in April 2015. (MESSENGER stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging.) In addition to the mission-related interactives and information found on the Science NetLinks MESSENGER page, the lessons and tools below were designed to provide teachers with information for students so they can better understand MESSENGER as it progresses toward its ultimate goal of entering the orbit of Mercury to collect comprehensive planetary data.

Many of these resources use interactives created in collaboration with the MESSENGER project.
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  • Cooler in the Shadows

    Cooler in the Shadows

    K-2  |  Hands-On
    In this lesson, students will make inferences about the cause of shadows by observing and making their own shadows in the sun.
  • Sensing Energy

    Sensing Energy

    In this lesson, students will perform simple experiments that will help them to explore unseen energy produced by the sun.
  • GeoHunter


    In this lesson, students will explore the geological history of Mercury and the other terrestrial planets, Venus, Earth, and Mars.
  • Make a Mission

    Make a Mission

    6-8  |  Interactive
    The focus of the lesson is technology, not only how it allows humans to collect scientific data and information on a faraway terrestrial planet, but also the constraints involved in designing the spacecraft to carry this technology.
  • Mercury


    In this lesson, students will have the chance to view the solar system and identify the sun and planets that compose it.
  • Snow Goggles

    Snow Goggles

    6-8  |  Hands-On
    This lesson illustrates how the use of scientific inquiry can solve different kinds of problems, like blocking unwanted sunlight.
  • Behind the Mission to Mercury

    Behind the Mission to Mercury

    9-12  |  Interactive
    In this lesson, students explore the technological design challenges and constraints behind a space mission.
  • Dangers of Radiation Exposure

    Dangers of Radiation Exposure

    In this lesson, students learn about sources of high-energy radiation and calculate student exposure to ionizing radiation over the past year.


  • GeoHunter


    6-8  |  Interactive
    This interactive provides you with data about the geological structure of the planet Mercury.
  • Advanced Fast Fact Challenge

    Advanced Fast Fact Challenge

    6-12  |  Interactive
    This resource tests your knowledge about the solar system in general and Mercury in particular.
  • Day on Mercury

    Day on Mercury

    6-12  |  Interactive
    A Day on Mercury allows the user to experience a typical Mercurian day, which is actually 176 Earth days.
  • Fact Challenge

    Fact Challenge

    6-12  |  Interactive
    This interactive activity challenges you with questions about Mercury.
  • Going Around the Sun

    Going Around the Sun

    6-12  |  Interactive
    Going Around the Sun presents a graphic representation of Mercury's orbit around the sun.
  • Gravity Assist Simulator

    Gravity Assist Simulator

    6-12  |  Interactive
    The Gravity Assist Simulator takes you through a series of simulated collisions to show how the New Horizon and Messenger spacecraft will use planned collisions to extend their missions.
  • Make a Mission

    Make a Mission

    6-12  |  Interactive
    In this interactive, you should build a spacecraft in order to explore the planet Mercury—just as the NASA team did when they planned and built the real MESSENGER spacecraft!
  • Orbit & Rotation

    Orbit & Rotation

    6-12  |  Interactive
    This resource is an animation showing the orbit and rotation of Mercury around the sun.
  • Places in the Sun

    Places in the Sun

    6-12  |  Interactive
    This animation allows you to see a side-by-side comparison of the sun on Earth and Mercury.
  • Planet Size Comparison

    Planet Size Comparison

    6-12  |  Interactive
    In this animation, you can find out the dimensions for each planet as well as how they compare in size.

Science Updates

  • Mercury's Volcanoes

    Mercury's Volcanoes

    6-12  |  Audio
    The planet Mercury seems placid compared to others in the solar system. But the MESSENGER spacecraft is revealing a more tumultuous past.

AAAS Resources

Spotlight on Space Exploration
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: This collection of audio podcasts from Science Update offers students the opportunity to hear from NASA and its partners, as they explore worlds both near and far.

Other Resources

Grade Band: 3-12
Description: The mission homepage gives a timeline and history of the project, offers educational resources for teachers and students, and provides the most recent information on the mission.

MESSENGER Mercury Orbit Insertion
Grade Band: 3-12
Description: This page for the Mercury Orbit Insertion offers details relating to MESSENGER's March 2011 insertion into Mercury's orbit and includes animations, images, and a press kit with a bounty of information.

Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum
Grade Band: 3-12
Description: The Adler Planetarium provides exciting hands-on learning for students of all ages. Educators will find easy access to student-friendly resources here.

The Nine Eight Planets
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: The Nine Eight Planets site, created by astronomer Bill Arnett, is a comprehensive overview and often-detailed discussion of the planets in our solar system, their related satellites, and other, small, local bodies, with accompanying graphics and photos to enhance any learner's understanding.

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