In honor of the spacecraft MESSENGER, which ends its mission today with a planned collision with Mercury, here’s a look back at the craft and its travels, as illustrated by Don Foley for the March 2011 issue of Scientific American.

Illustration by Don Foley. Originally produced for "Journey to the Innermost Planet" by Scott L. Murchie, Ronald J. Vervack, Jr., and Brian J. Anderson, in Scientific American, March 2011.
Graphic by Jen Christiansen; Source: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington; Originally produced for "Journey to the Innermost Planet" by Scott L. Murchie, Ronald J. Vervack, Jr., and Brian J. Anderson, in Scientific American, March 2011.

Although MESSENGER was the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury, it wasn’t the first mission to send back images of the planet. Mariner 10 flew by three times in 1974-75, thanks to a sling-shot assist from Venus. Here is how Allen Beechel illustrated its trajectory for the September 1975 issue of the magazine:

Graphic by Allen Beechel. from "Mercury" by Bruce C. Murray, in Scientific American, September 1975.
Graphic by Allen Beechel. from "Mercury" by Bruce C. Murray, in Scientific American, September 1975.

Perhaps it’s time to update the following classic chart, with information gleaned from MESSENGER:

Graphic by Ilil Arbel. from "The Solar System" by Carl Sagan, in Scientific American, September 1975