Scientific Instruments Onboard the MESSENGER
Apart from the necessary navigation, communication and other systems, the spacecraft is also equipped with 9 scientific instruments:
- Propellant Tanks
- LVA Thruster
- Correction Thrusters
- Attitude Monitors
- Heat-resistant Sunshade
- Solar Panels
Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS): This is the system that gathers topographic data to create images of the Mercury surface.
Gamma-Ray Spectrometer (GRS): This is a detector for neutrons, gamma rays and low-energy X-rays emitted by certain element on the planet's surface. The instrument will help determine whether there is ice at the poles of the planet.
Neutron Spectrometer (NS): This spectrometer detects the low-energy neutrons emitted by the surface minerals (40cm depth) when hitted by cosmic rays and determines their composition.
X-Ray Spectrometer (XRS): Also determines the mineral composition - although at much lower depths (range of mm) - by detecting X-rays instead of neutrons.
Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA): Another instrument that studies Mercury's topography. This one uses a laser beam that is reflected by the planet's surface and is used to collect topographic data.
Magnetometer (MAG): The purpose of this instrument is to map the magnetic field of Mercury and detect any magnetic materials on the surface.
Energetic Particle and Plasma Spectrometer (EPPS): It will measure the various characteristics of charged particles that exist in the planet's magnetosphere (ions, electrons etc).
Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS): The spectrometer will detect any gases in Mercury through the infrared to ultraviolet emission spectra of these gases.
Radio Science (RS): The instrument will study the mass distribution of the planet by monitoring the changes in speed of the spacecraft through the Doppler effect.