This Demonstration animates the flight of the Messenger spacecraft's mission to Mercury. This spacecraft used a technique called gravitational assist six times—once with the Earth, twice with Venus, and three times with Mercury.
The time step is one day, positions are at midnight, and the speed is measured relative to the Sun. The origin is at the Sun and the positive axis points to the vernal equinox.
Nothing here is modeled; all positions of the spacecraft and planets were obtained from NASA JPL. We thank NASA JPL for providing the data. Information about the mission can be found on NASA's MESSENGER website.
More information about the gravitational assist can be found in . A manual on how to create such an animation can be found in . For more information, see the author's website.