When the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft enters orbit about Mercury in March 2011 it will begin a new phase in an age-old scientific study of the innermost planet. Despite being visible to the unaided eye, Mercury's proximity to the Sun makes it extremely difficult to observe from Earth. Nonetheless, over the centuries man has pursued a quest to understand the elusive planet, and has teased out information about its motions in the sky, its relation to the other planets, and its physical characteristics. A great leap was made in our understanding of Mercury when the Mariner 10 spacecraft flew past it three times in the mid-1970s, providing a rich set of close-up observations. Now, three decades later, The MESSENGER spacecraft has also visited the planet three times, and is poised to add significantly to the study with a year-long orbital observation campaign.