CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- NASA has discovered a Mickey Mouse look-a-like crater formation on the planet Mercury by NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft. Coincidentally, the MESSENGER spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on August 3, 2004 and, like most other launches from the Cape, could be seen from Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida. So there is even a slight chance that Mickey Mouse 'spotted' MESSENGER on launch day.
The above scene is to the northwest of the recently named crater Magritte, in Mercury's south. The image is not map projected; the larger crater actually sits to the north of the two smaller ones. The shadowing helps define the striking "Mickey Mouse" resemblance, created by the accumulation of craters over Mercury's long geologic history.
Walt Disney, Mickey Mouse's creator, often captured Americans' imagination of the future of the U.S. Space Program beginning back in the 1950's. Disney even brought on the father of the U.S. Space Program, Wernher von Braun, as a technical advisor for space-themed Disney productions in the 1950's. It is also widely believed that Disney chose Central Florida as the location of Walt Disney World because of its proximity to the Kennedy Space Center.
The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft's seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation are unraveling the history and evolution of the Solar System's innermost planet. During the one-year primary mission, MESSENGER acquired 88,746 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER is now in a yearlong extended mission, during which plans call for the acquisition of more than 80,000 additional images to support MESSENGER's science goals.