Color-enhanced view of Mercury reveals a rainbow spectrum of minerals.
A near full-globe view of Mercury is seen in this image from NASA's Messenger spacecraft.

Mercury: Exploration

Because Mercury is so close to the Sun, it is hard to directly observe from Earth except during dawn or twilight when the Sun's brightness doesn't outshine little Mercury. The first spacecraft to visit Mercury was NASA's Mariner 10, which imaged about 45% of the surface. NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft flew by Mercury three times and orbited the planet for four years before crashing on its surface at the end of its mission. The European Space Agency and JAXA launched a joint mission to Mercury in 2018. The mission, called BepiColombo, is made up of two spacecraft. Nine flybys are planned to help steer the spacecraft into orbit in late 2025.

All NASA Science Missions

Planet Location

Inner Solar System

first mission

Mariner 10

total missions


active missions

1 (ESA's BepiColombo)

Most of Mercury is visible in this flyby image. It appears gray-colored with white ejecta in craters.
This high-resolution mosaic of images shows Mercury as it appeared to MESSENGER as the spacecraft departed the planet following the mission's first flyby of Mercury.
NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Missions to Mercury

Three spacecraft have explored Mercury.

Mariner 10

The first spacecraft sent to study Mercury. 


The first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.

Artist rendering of white spacecraft with extended solar panels against black background


An international mission comprised of two spacecraft.

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