SPACECRAFT FINDS NEW EVIDENCE FOR ICE ON MERCURY
NASA's MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging
(MESSENGER) spacecraft provided compelling support for the long-held
hypothesis the planet harbors abundant water ice and other frozen
volatile materials within its permanently shadowed polar craters.
The spacecraft's onboard instruments have been studying Mercury in
unprecedented detail since its historic arrival there in March 2011.
Scientists are seeing clearly for the first time a chapter in the
story of how the inner planets, including Earth, acquired their water
and some of the chemical building blocks for life.
The new data announced in December indicated the water ice in
Mercury's polar regions, if spread over an area the size of
Washington, D.C., would be more than 2 miles thick. Given its
proximity to the sun, Mercury would seem to be an unlikely place to
find ice, however, there are pockets at the planet's poles that never