I know what you're thinking. 2011? Mercury is only 60 million miles away - why will it take more than six years for MESSENGER to reach its destination?
The answer - because this probe is taking the scenic route. On its way to Mercury, MESSENGER will be on a long junket around the inner solar system, buzzing by Earth and Venus a few times before finally settling down around Mercury.
So we're annoying three planets with one mission. Fantastic!
And the worst of all is the fact that we've already been there and done that! Mercury was explored by Mariner 10 in 1975. The scienticians have already collected all the data they'd ever need to know, so this is just frivolous planetary picking-on!
Mark my words: the inner planets will not be happy about this, nor will they be pleased. I predict that we will begin to see more asteroids and other space rocks hurled in our direction once MESSENGER begins circling Mercury. Mark! My! Words!