Manned space exploration is important, but it's not everything. People talk about the decline of the American space program because our manned space strategy is messed up at the moment, but exploration like this is every bit as important. While other space programs are talking about doing something NASA did more than 40 years ago, NASA is actively exploring our solar system and our universe.
We have robots on Mars, probes orbiting Saturn, Mars and now Mercury, one on the way to Pluto. Have I missed any? Then there are the mind-blowing space telescopes. Programs like messenger speak to human's need to understand and to build toward a future. It's endemic to our species and important in terms of keeping our future live and alive. It has been so throughout recorded history.
We are unaware of NASA releasing any color or stereoscopic images taken by Messenger of the surface of Mercury. Presumably those images will be released soon given the level of interest generated by the Messenger mission. The dark lines “Robotics Developer” notes emanating from the impact crater Debussy are part of a ray system caused by ejecta that was blasted from Mercury’s surface. This spoke-like system eventually "weathers" through processes like solid wind implantation and micrometeorite impacts so that the rays eventually darken to match the albedo, that is, the reflectivity, of the surrounding surface. Stay tuned as more Messenger images are released.
I look forward to the color images, are they coming soon or did I miss them when I followed the link to the very nice (yes it does remind me of our moon) image from Mercury. I wonder what the cause is of the dark lines that show up streaming from the craters? I wonder just how much we can learn from the images, would they be used to stir up interest in a visit?
I found the article "Alien Life, Coming Slowly Into View" by Ray Jayawardhana, referred in the last paragraph, very interesting. As we make more technological breakthroughs after "Messenger" to extend our reach further, may be one day we would find the clue on this popular topic: whether we have company somewhere else in this Universe.