Hey Space Placers!
NASA and Johns Hopkins' MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, Geochemistry, and Ranging) spacecraft is on autopilot for orbital insertion around Mercury on March 17th at 8:45 p.m. EDT. The spacecraft is flying itself using commands stored in memory. If successful this will be a triumph of spaceflight history that was almost 5 billion miles and 6 1/2 years in the making - the distance travelled and time since launch. To read more about MESSENGER: http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/index.php and http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2011/15mar_messenger/
You can tune in to a live webcast on the 17th at 7:55 p.m. See http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/news_room/index.php for the link.
The weather around the Washington D.C. area should be great for viewing Mercury live just before orbital insertion. See my previous blog on spotting the planet closest to the Sun. My pic below shows you what Jupiter and Mercury look like - Mercury is dimmer and to the right of Jupiter. Since this picture was taken Mercury is higher up and to the right of Jupiter.