The data from the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft have revealed several surprising characteristics about the surface of Mercury, leading to its classification as a geochemical endmember among the terrestrial planets. Some of these features include elevated abundances of up to 3 wt% S, C enrichment as high as 4 wt% over the local mean in low reflectance materials (LRM), Na up to 5 wt% at high northern latitudes, and Fe abundances typically lower than 2 wt% [e.g., 14]. The S and Fe concentrations have been used to infer that Mercurys igneous history evolved under highly reduced oxygen fugacity conditions between 2.6 and 7.3 log10 units below the iron-wstite buffer [e.g., 5], which is more reducing than any other terrestrial planet in the solar system [e.g., 6]. This highly reduced nature has important consequences for the differentiation and thermal/magmatic evolution of Mercury. While the immense amount of data collected by MESSENGER revealed Mercury as a geochemical endmember, this new knowledge gained raised additional questions that necessitate continued exploration of the planet. Fortunately, BepiColombo launched in October of 2018, and this joint ESA/JAXA dual-orbiter spacecraft is the most ambitious effort yet attempted to explore Mercury [e.g., 7]. Looking beyond BepiColombo, there are major aspects of Mercurys geochemical character and evolution for which significant knowledge gaps can be dramatically improved with data acquired from the planets surface via in situ landed science.
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Lunar and Planetary Science Conference; Mar 16, 2020 - Mar 20, 2020; The Woodlands, TX; United States