One of the key ingredients of science fiction as a genre—not all, of course, there are many kinds of sci-fi—has always been the idea of leaving the confines of Earth in the metaphorical rearview mirror as you blast off into the great black unknown, ready for whatever adventures come your way. Now, thanks to science—with a great assist from the engineers—we know what that view would look like, and it is rather spectacular.
Eight years ago, en route to Mercury, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft took a slight detour around our humble little rock, and like any good tourist, it shot an ass load of photographs along the way. String those images together, and what do you have, but a view of what it looks like to peel space rubber, and leave the comfy confines of Earth in the dust. This is a time-lapse video, not real time, but it definitely gives the appearance of pulling out of the cosmic driveway.
MESSENGER’s—an acronym for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging—mission is to study the Swift Planet, and is the first man made craft to ever orbit the closest planet to the Sun. So far the trip has been a rousing success. Back in May, MESSENGER completed its 2000th revolution around Mercury. This feat was reached shortly after it finished creating the first ever map of the entire surface, which it finalized in March.
Over the course of its journey, the automated explorer has told us a ton of cool shit about the surface of Mercury, including the chemical makeup of the soil, as well as discovering the existence of organic molecules and water-based ice. At the end of its voyage, the plan is to crash the craft into the surface of the planet. It’s kind of sad to think that MESSENGER will never get to return home, but you have to admit, that’s one hell of way to go out. So as it turns out, the video taken as it blasted away from our atmosphere is actually the last time it will ever set mechanical eyes its home.
Knowing that MESSENGER will ultimately die a fiery, high-impact death, one that’s certainly worthy of a science fiction movie, gives this video an air and impression of finality. It’s like driving away from your childhood home when you finally move out and are taking that last load of underwear and hand-me-down dishes across town to your new place, knowing that you’re never—ideally—going to live there again. Then again, maybe you’re so stoked to get out of there the second you turn 18 that you don’t think twice or even glance back, you heartless bastards.